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SUPPORT
SECOND DIVISION



EDWARD V. LACSON, G.R. No. 150644
Petitioner,
Present:

PUNO, J., Chairperson,
- versus - SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,
CORONA,
AZCUNA, and
GARCIA, JJ.
MAOWEE DABAN LACSON
and MAONAA DABAN Promulgated:
LACSON, represented by their
mother and guardian ad-litem,
LEA DABAN LACSON, August 28, 2006
Respondents.
x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

D E C I S I O N

GARCIA, J .:

Petitioner Edward V. Lacson, father of the respondent sisters Maowee Daban Lacson
and Maonaa Daban Lacson and husband of their mother and guardian ad-litem, Lea Daban
Lacson, has come to this Court via this petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of
Court to seek the reversal and setting aside of the Decision
[1]
dated July 13, 2001 of the Court
of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 60203, as reiterated in its Resolution
[2]
of October 18,
2001 denying his motion for reconsideration.

From the petition and its annexes, the respondents reply thereto, and other pleadings,
the Court gathers the following facts:

The sisters Maowee Daban Lacson and Maonaa Daban Lacson are legitimate daughters
of petitioner Edward V. Lacson and his wife, Lea Daban Lacson. Maowee was born
on December 4, 1974, while Maonaa, a little less than a year later. Not long after the birth of
Maonaa, petitioner left the conjugal home in Molo, Iloilo City, virtually forcing mother and
children to seek, apparently for financial reason, shelter somewhere else. For a month, they
stayed with Leas mother-in-law, Alicia Lacson, then with her (Leas) mother and then with
her brother Noel Daban. After some time, they rented an apartment only to return later to the
house of Leas mother. As the trial court aptly observed, the sisters and their mother, from
1976 to 1994, or for a period of eighteen (18) years, shuttled from one dwelling place to
another not their own.

It appears that from the start of their estrangement, Lea did not badger her husband
Edward for support, relying initially on his commitment memorialized in a note
dated December 10, 1975 to give support to his daughters. As things turned out, however,
Edward reneged on his promise of support, despite Leas efforts towards having him fulfill the
same. Lea would admit, though, that Edward occasionally gave their children meager amounts
for school expenses. Through the years and up to the middle part of 1992, Edwards mother,
Alicia Lacson, also gave small amounts to help in the schooling of Maowee and Maonaa, both
of whom eventually took up nursing at St. Pauls College in Iloilo City. In the early part of
1995 when Lea, in behalf of her two daughters, filed a complaint against Edward for support
before the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City, Branch 33, Maowee was about to graduate.

In that complaint dated January 30, 1995, as amended,
[3]
docketed as Civil Case No.
22185, Maowee and Maonaa, thru their mother, averred that their father Edward, despite being
gainfully employed and owning several pieces of valuable lands, has not provided them
support since 1976. They also alleged that, owing to years of Edwards failure and neglect,
their mother had, from time to time, borrowed money from her brother Noel Daban. As she
would later testify, Lea had received from Noel, by way of a loan, as much
as P400,000.00 to P600,000.00.

In his Answer, Edward alleged giving to Maowee and Maonaa sufficient sum to meet
their needs. He explained, however, that his lack of regular income and the unproductivity of
the land he inherited, not his neglect, accounted for his failure at times to give regular support.
He also blamed financial constraint for his inability to provide the P12,000.00 monthly
allowance prayed for in the complaint.

As applied for and after due hearing, the trial court granted the sisters Maowee and
Maonaa support pendente lite at P12,000.00 per month, subject to the schedule of payment
and other conditions set forth in the courts corresponding order of May 13, 1996.
[4]


Following trial, the RTC rendered on June 26, 1997 judgment finding for the plaintiff
sisters, as represented by their mother. In that judgment, the trial court, following an elaborate
formula set forth therein, ordered their defendant father Edward to pay them a specific sum
which represented 216 months, or 18 years, of support in arrears. The fallo of the trial courts
decision
[5]
reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered:

1) Ordering defendant to compensate plaintiffs
support in arrears in the amount of TWO
MILLION FOUR HUNDRED NINETY-SIX
THOUSAND (P2, 496,000.00) PESOS from which
amount shall be deducted ONE HUNDRED
TWENTY-FOUR (P124,000.00) PESOS that which
they received from defendant for two years and that
which they received by way of support pendent lite;

2) Ordering defendant to pay TWENTY THOUSAND
(P20,000.00) PESOS as attorneys fees; and

3) Pay costs.

SO ORDERED.


2

Therefrom, Edward appealed to the CA whereat his recourse was docketed as CA-G.R.
CV. No. 60203.

Eventually, the CA, in the herein assailed Decision dated July 13, 2001,
[6]
dismissed
Edwards appeal, disposing as follows;

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present appeal is hereby
DISMISSED and the appealed Decision in Civil Case No. 22185 is hereby
AFFIRMED.

Double costs against the defendant appellant [Edward Lacson].

SO ORDERED. (Words in bracket added.)


In time, Edward moved for reconsideration, but his motion was denied by the appellate
court in its equally assailed Resolution of October 18, 2001.
[7]


Hence, Edwards present recourse on his submission that the CA erred -


I. XXX WHEN IT AFFIRMED THE GRANT OF SUPPORT IN
ARREARS FROM 1976 TO 1994.

II. XXX IN AFFIRMING THE ALLEGED ADVANCES OF SUPPORT
BY RESPONDENTS UNCLE NOEL DABAN.

III. XXX IN AFFIRMING THE AWARD OF SUPPORT EVEN IF
PETITIONER IS NOT FINANCIALLY CAPABLE OF PROVIDING
THE SAME TO RESPONDENTS.

IV. XXX WHEN IT ORDERED PETITIONER TO PROVIDE SUPPORT
TO XXX RESPONDENTS EVEN IF PETITIONERS OBLIGATION
TO PROVIDE SUPPORT HAD ALREADY BEEN COMPLETELY
SATISFIED BY THE PROCEEDS OF THE SALE OF HIS EXCLUSIVE
PROPERTY WHICH WERE ALL APPROPRIATED BY THE
RESPONDENTS.


The petition lacks merit.

Petitioner admits being obliged, as father, to provide support to both respondents,
Maowee and Maonaa. It is his threshold submission, however, that he should not be made to
pay support in arrears, i.e., from 1976 to 1994, no previous extrajudicial, let alone judicial,
demand having been made by the respondents. He invokes the following provision of the
Family Code to complete his point:

Article 203 The obligation to give support shall be demandable
from the time the person who has a right to receive the same needs it for
maintenance, but it shall not be paid except from the date of judicial or
extrajudicial demand.

To petitioner, his obligation to pay under the aforequoted provision starts from the filing
of Civil Case No. 22185 in 1995, since only from that moment can it be said that an effective
demand for support was made upon him.

Petitioners above posture has little to commend itself. For one, it conveniently glossed
over the fact that he veritably abandoned the respondent sisters even before the elder of the
two could celebrate her second birthday. To be sure, petitioner could not plausibly expect any
of the sisters during their tender years to go through the motion of demanding support from
him, what with the fact that even their mother (his wife) found it difficult during the
period material to get in touch with him. For another, the requisite demand for support
appears to have been made sometime in 1975. It may be that Lea made no extrajudicial
demand in the sense of a formal written demand in terms and in the imperious tenor
commonly used by legal advocates in a demand letter. Nonetheless, what would pass as a
demand was, however, definitely made. Asking one to comply with his obligation to
support owing to the urgency of the situation is no less a demand because it came by
way of a request or a plea. As it were, the trial court found that a demand to sustain an
award of support in arrears had been made in this case and said so in its decision, thus:

From 1976, [respondents] mother now and then went to their
[paternal] grandmothers house by their father and asked for support; this
notwithstanding their fathers commitment for this purpose which the
latter embodied in a note dated December 10, 1975. For twenty-one
years that they needed support, [petitioner] complied with his
obligation for only two (2) years.

xxx xxx xxx

Last December 10, 1975, [petitioner] committed self for the
support of his children, the [respondents] herein but failing,
plaintiffs mother asked extrajudicially for her childrens support
since 1976, when she went to her mothers house. .
[8]
(Words in bracket
and underscoring added.)

The appellate court made a parallel finding on the demand angle, formulating the same
in the following wise:

We could not confer judicial approval upon [petitioners] posture
of trying to evade his responsibility to give support to his daughters
simply because their mother did not make a formal demand therefor
from him. [Petitioners] insistence on requiring a formal demand from
his wife is truly pointless, in the face of his acknowledgment of and
commitment to comply with such obligation through a note in his own
handwriting. Said note [stating that he will sustain his two daughters
Maowee and Maonaa] also stated as requested by their mother thus
practically confirming the fact of such demand having been made by
[respondents] mother. The trial court thus correctly ruled that
[petitioners] obligation to pay support in arrears should commence from
1976.
[9]
(Words in bracket added).

The Court finds no adequate reason to disturb the factual determination of the CA
confirmatory of that of the trial court respecting the demand Lea made on the petitioner to
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secure support for the respondents. As a matter of long and sound appellate practice, factual
findings of the CA are accorded respect, if not finality, save for the most compelling and
cogent reasons.
[10]
Not one of the well-recognized exceptions to this rule on conclusiveness of
factual findings appear to obtain in this case. Accordingly, the Court cannot grant the
petitioners plea for a review of the CAs findings bearing on the actuality that, as basis for an
award of support in arrears, an extrajudicial demand for support had been made on the
petitioner as evidenced by the December 10, 1975 note adverted to. Lest it be overlooked,
the jurisdiction of the Court in a petition for review, as here, is generally limited to correction
of errors of law. Complementing that postulate is the rule that the Court is not bound to
analyze and weigh all over again the evidence already considered in the proceedings
below,
[11]
except when, as earlier indicated, compelling reasons demand a review of the factual
conclusions drawn from such evidence.

Petitioners second specification of error touches on the CAs affirmatory holding that
respondents uncle, Noel Daban, advanced the money for their support. Again, petitioners
lament on the matter is a veritable call for review of factual determinations of the two courts
below. It need not, accordingly, detain us long. Suffice it to state in that regard that, of their
close relatives, the respondents appeared to have stayed longest with their uncle, Noel
Daban. Noteworthy also is the fact that petitioner, from 1976 to 1994, only gave Maowee and
Maonaa token amounts for schooling when support comprises everything indispensable for
sustenance, dwelling, clothing, medical attendance and education,
[12]
or, in short, whatever is
necessary to keep a person alive. Logically, the sisters would, thru their mother, turn to their
uncle (Noel Daban) for their sustenance and education when petitioner failed to give the same,
a failing which stretched from their pre-schooling days to their college years. Since such
failure has been established, it is not amiss to deduce, as did the trial court and the CA, that
Noel Daban who, owing to consideration of kinship, had reasons to help, indeed lent his sister
Lea money to support her children.

Pursuant to Article 207 of the Family Code, Noel Daban can rightfully exact
reimbursement from the petitioner. The provision reads:

When the person obliged to support another unjustly refuses or
fails to give support when urgently needed by the latter, any third person
may furnish support to the needy individual, with right of reimbursement
from the person obliged to give support.


Mention may also be made that, contextually, the resulting juridical relationship
between the petitioner and Noel Daban is a quasi-contract,
[13]
an equitable principle enjoining
one from unjustly enriching himself at the expense of another.

As for the amount of support in arrears, there is also no reason to disturb the absolute
figures arrived at by the two courts below, appearing as they do to be reasonable and proper.
Arbitrariness respecting the determination of the final numbers cannot plausibly be laid on the
doorsteps of the CA, and the trial court before it, considering that they fixed such amount
based on the varying needs of the respondents during the years included in the computation
and to the financial resources of the petitioner, as proved by the evidence adduced below. As a
matter of law, the amount of support which those related by marriage and family
relationship is generally obliged to give each other shall be in proportion to the resources or
means of the giver and to the needs of the recipient.
[14]


Petitioner closes his petition by urging the Court, as it did the CA earlier, to consider a
transaction that transpired after the trial court had rendered judgment. We refer to the sale by
Lea of half of what petitioner claims to be his exclusive or capital property. As the petitioner
would have this Court believe, Lea and the respondent sisters appropriated the P5 Million
proceeds of the sale for themselves. Pressing on, he alleged that the amount thus received from
the sale is more than enough to fully satisfy thus release him from complying with- the
underlying judgment for support, assuming ex gratia argumenti his obligation to pay support
in arrears.

Petitioners above submission is flawed by the premises holding it together. For firstly,
it assumes as a fact that what was sold for P5 Million was indeed his exclusive property. But,
as the CA aptly observed, there is no showing whether the property subject of the transaction
mentioned by [the petitioner] is a conjugal property or [his] exclusive property, as in fact
[respondents] mother asserts that she and [petitioner] had separately sold their respective
shares on said property.
[15]


Secondly, the respondent sisters were not party to the sale aforementioned. Petitioners
suggestion, therefore, that part of the proceeds of the sale went to them and may be set off for
what petitioner owes them by way of support in arrears is unacceptable, being at best
gratuitous and self-serving.

Petitioner, unlike any good father of a family, has been remiss in his duty to provide
respondents with support practically all throughout their growing years. At bottom, the sisters
have been deprived by a neglectful father of the basic necessities in life as if it is their fault to
have been born. This disposition is thus nothing more than a belated measure to right a wrong
done the herein respondents who are no less petitioners daughters.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED and the appealed CA decision and
resolution are AFFIRMED.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

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PARENTAL AUTHORITY
G.R. No. 111180 November 16, 1995
DAISIE T. DAVID, petitioner,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS, RAMON R. VILLAR, respondents.
MENDOZA, J .:
Petitioner Daisie T. David worked as secretary of private respondent Ramon R. Villar,
a businessman in Angeles City. Private respondent is a married man and the father of
four children, all grown-up. After a while, the relationship between petitioner and
private respondent developed into an intimate one, as a result of which a son,
Christopher J., was born on March 9, 1985 to them. Christopher J. was followed by
two more children, both girls, namely Christine, born on June 9, 1986, and Cathy Mae
on April 24, 1988.
The relationship became known to private respondent's wife when Daisie took
Christopher J, to Villar's house at Villa Teresa in Angeles City sometime in 1986 and
introduced him to Villar's legal wife.
After this, the children of Daisie were freely brought by Villar to his house as they
were eventually accepted by his legal family.
In the summer of 1991, Villar asked Daisie to allow Christopher J., then six years of
age, to go with his family to Boracay. Daisie agreed, but after the trip, Villar refused to
give back the child. Villar said he had enrolled Christopher J. at the Holy Family
Academy for the next school year.
On July 30, 1991, Daisie filed a petition for habeas corpus on behalf of Christopher J.
After hearing, the Regional Trial Court, Branch 58 at Angeles City, rendered a
decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered
in favor of the petitioner and against the respondent:
1. the rightful custody of the minor Christopher J. T. David is hereby
given to the natural mother, the herein petitioner Daisie T. David;
2. respondent is hereby ordered to give a temporary support of
P3,000.00 a month to the subject minor Christopher J. T. David,
Christine David and Cathy Mae David to take effect upon the finality
of this decision; and
3. to pay the costs of this suit.
SO ORDERED.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed, holding:
We agree with the respondent-appellant's view that this is not
proper in a habeas corpus case.
Law and jurisprudence wherein the question of custody of a minor
child may be decided in a habeas corpus case contemplate a
situation where the parents are married to each other but are
separated. This is so because under the Family Code, the father
and mother have joint parental authority over their legitimate
children and in case of separation of the parents there is need to
determine rightful custody of their children. The same does not hold
true in an adulterous relationship, as in the case at bar, the child
born out of such a relationship is under the parental authority of the
mother by express provision of the law. Hence, the question of
custody and support should be brought in a case singularly filed for
the purpose. In point of fact, this is more advisable in the case at
bar because the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over the other
minor children of the petitioner-appellee and respondent-appellant
and, therefore, cannot properly provide for their support.
Admittedly, respondent-appellant is financially well-off, he being a
very rich businessman; whereas, petitioner-appellee depends upon
her sisters and parents for support. In fact, he financially supported
petitioner-appellee and her three minor children. It is, therefore, for
the best interest of Christopher J that he should temporarily remain
under the custody of respondent-appellant until the issue on
custody and support shall have been determined in a proper case.
WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby SET ASIDE,
and a NEW ONE ENTERED dismissing the petition for habeas
corpus in Special Proceeding No. 4489.
Daisie in turn filed this petition for review of the appellate court's decision.
Rule 102, 1 of the Rules of Court provides that "the writ of habeas corpus shall
extend to all cases of illegal confinement or detention by which any person is
deprived of his liberty, or by which the rightful custody of any person is
withheld from the person entitled thereto."
It is indeed true, as the Court of Appeals observed, that the determination of the
right to the custody of minor children is relevant in cases where the parents,
who are married to each other, are for some reason separated from each other.
It does not follow, however, that it cannot arise in any other situation. For
example, in the case ofSalvaa v. Gaela,
1
it was held that the writ of habeas
corpus is the proper remedy to enable parents to regain the custody of a minor
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daughter even though the latter be in the custody of a third person of her free will
because the parents were compelling her to marry a man against her will.
In the case at bar, Christopher J. is an illegitimate child since at the time of his
conception, his father, private respondent Ramon R. Villar, was married to
another woman other than the child's mother. As such, pursuant to Art. 176 of the
Family Code, Christopher J. is under the parental authority of his mother, the
herein petitioner, who, as a consequence of such authority, is entitled to have custody
of him.
2
Since, admittedly, petitioner has been deprived of her rightful custody of
her child by private respondent, she is entitled to issuance of the writ of habeas
corpus.
Indeed, Rule 1021 1 makes no distinction between the case of a mother who is
separated from her husband and is entitled to the custody of her child and that
of a mother of an illegitimate child who, by law, is vested with sole parental
authority, but is deprived of her rightful custody of her child.
The fact that private respondent has recognized the minor child may be a
ground for ordering him to give support to the latter, but not for giving him
custody of the child. Under Art. 213 of the Family Code, "no child under seven
years of age shall be separated from the mother unless the court finds compelling
reasons to order otherwise."
3

Nor is the fact that private respondent is well-off a reason for depriving petitioner of
the custody of her children, especially considering that she has been able to rear and
support them on her own since they were born. Petitioner is a market vendor earning
from P2,000 to P3,000 per month in 1993 when the RTC decision was rendered. She
augments her income by working as secretary at the Computer System Specialist,
Inc. earning a monthly income of P4,500.00. She has an arrangement with her
employer so that she can personally attend to her children. She works up to 8:00
o'clock in the evening to make up for time lost during the day. That she receives help
from her parents and sister for the support of the three children is not a point against
her. Cooperation, compassion, love and concern for every member of the family are
characteristics of the close family ties that bind the Filipino family and have made it
what it is.
Daisie and her children may not be enjoying a life of affluence that private respondent
promises if the child lives with him. It is enough, however, that petitioner is
earning a decent living and is able to support her children according to her
means.
The Regional Trial Court ordered private respondent to give temporary support to
petitioner in the amount of P3,000.00 a month, pending the filing of an action for
support, after finding that private respondent did not give any support to his three
children by Daisie, except the meager amount of P500.00 a week which he stopped
giving them on June 23, 1992. He is a rich man who professes love for his children. In
fact he filed a motion for the execution of the decision of the Court of Appeals,
alleging that he had observed his son "to be physically weak and pale because of
malnutrition and deprivation of the luxury and amenities he was accustomed to when
in the former custody of the respondent." He prayed that he be given the custody of
the child so that he can provide him with the "proper care and education."
Although the question of support is proper in a proceeding for that purpose, the grant
of support in this case is justified by the fact that private respondent has
expressed willingness to support the minor child. The order for payment of
allowance need not be conditioned on the grant to him of custody of the child. Under
Art. 204 of the Family Code, a person obliged to give support can fulfill his
obligation either by paying the allowance fixed by the court or by receiving and
maintaining in the family dwelling the person who is entitled to support unless,
in the latter case, there is "a moral or legal obstacle thereto."
In the case at bar, as has already been pointed out, Christopher J., being less than
seven years of age at least at the time the case was decided by the RTC, cannot
be taken from the mother's custody. Even now that the child is over seven
years of age, the mother's custody over him will have to be upheld because the
child categorically expressed preference to live with his mother. Under Art. 213
of the Family Code, courts must respect the "choice of the child over seven
years of age, unless the parent chosen is unfit" and here it has not been shown
that the mother is in any way unfit to have custody of her child. Indeed, if private
respondent loves his child, he should not condition the grant of support for him on the
award of his custody to him (private respondent).
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is REVERSED and private
respondent is ORDERED to deliver the minor Christopher J. T. David to the custody
of his mother, the herein petitioner, and to give him temporary support in the amount
of P3,000.00, pending the fixing of the amount of support in an appropriate action.
SO ORDERED.

6

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 70890. September 18, 1992.]

CRESENCIO LIBI * and AMELIA YAP LIBI, Petitioners, v. HON.
INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT, FELIPE GOTIONG and SHIRLEY
GOTIONG, Respondents.

Alex Y. Tan, for Petitioners.

Mario D. Ortiz and Danilo V. Ortiz for Private Respondents.


SYLLABUS


1. CIVIL LAW; QUASI DELICT; LIABILITY OF PARENTS FOR CIVIL
LIABILITY ARISING FROM CRIMINAL OFFENSES COMMITTED BY THEIR
MINOR CHILDREN; RULE. The parents are and should be held primarily
liable for the civil liability arising from criminal offenses committed by their
minor children under their legal authority or control, or who live in their
company, unless it is proven that the former acted with the diligence of a
good father of a family to prevent such damages. That primary liability is
premised on the provisions of Article 101 of the Revised Penal Code with
respect to damages ex delicto caused by their children 9 years of age or
under, or over 9 but under 15 years of age who acted without
discernment; and, with regard to their children over 9 but under 15 years
of age who acted with discernment, or 15 years or over but under 21
years of age, such primary liability shall be imposed pursuant to Article
2180 of the Civil Code. Under said Article 2180, the enforcement of such
liability shall be effected against the father and, in case of his death or
incapacity, the mother. This was amplified by the Child and Youth Welfare
Code which provides that the same shall devolve upon the father and, in
case of his death or incapacity, upon the mother or, in case of her death or
incapacity, upon the guardian, but the liability may also be voluntarily
assumed by a relative or family friend of the youthful offender. However,
under the Family Code, this civil liability is now, without such alternative
qualification, the responsibility of the parents and those who exercise
parental authority over the minor offender. For civil liability arising from
quasi-delicts committed by minors, the same rules shall apply in
accordance with Articles 2180 and 2182 of the Civil Code, as so modified.


D E C I S I O N


REGALADO, J.:


One of the ironic verities of life, it has been said, is that sorrow is
sometimes a touchstone of love. A tragic illustration is provided by the
instant case, wherein two lovers died while still in the prime of their years,
a bitter episode for those whose lives they have touched. While we cannot
expect to award complete assuagement to their families through
seemingly prosaic legal verbiage, this disposition should at least terminate
the acrimony and rancor of an extended judicial contest resulting from the
unfortunate occurrence.

In this final denouement of the judicial recourse the stages whereof were
alternately initiated by the parties, petitioners are now before us seeking
the reversal of the judgment of respondent court promulgated on January
2, 1985 in AC-G.R. CV No. 69060 with the following decretal
portion:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"WHEREFORE, the decision of the lower court dismissing plaintiffs
complaint is hereby reversed; and instead, judgment is hereby rendered
sentencing defendants, jointly and solidarily, to pay to plaintiffs the
following amounts:chanrobles.com : virtual law library

1. Moral damages, P30,000.000;

2. Exemplary damages, P10,000.00;

3. Attorneys fees, P20,000.00, and costs.

However, denial of defendants-appellees counterclaims is affirmed." 1

Synthesized from the findings of the lower courts, it appears that
respondent spouses are the legitimate parents of Julie Ann Gotiong
who, at the time of the deplorable incident which took place and from
which she died on January 14, 1979, was an 18-year old first year
commerce student of the University of San Carlos, Cebu City; while
petitioners are the parents of Wendell Libi, then a minor between 18
and 19 years of age living with his aforesaid parents, and who also died in
the same event on the same date.

For more than two (2) years before their deaths, Julie Ann Gotiong and
Wendell Libi were sweethearts until December, 1978 when Julie Ann broke
up her relationship with Wendell after she supposedly found him to be
sadistic and irresponsible. During the first and second weeks of January,
1979, Wendell kept pestering Julie Ann with demands for reconciliation but
the latter persisted in her refusal, prompting the former to resort to
threats against her. In order to avoid him, Julie Ann stayed in the house of
her best friend, Malou Alfonso, at the corner of Maria Cristina and Juana
Osmea Streets, Cebu City, from January 7 to 13, 1978.

On January 14, 1979, Julie Ann and Wendell died, each from a single
gunshot wound inflicted with the same firearm, a Smith and Wesson
7

revolver licensed in the name of petitioner Cresencio Libi, which was
recovered from the scene of the crime inside the residence of private
respondents at the corner of General Maxilom and D. Jakosalem streets of
the same city.

Due to the absence of an eyewitness account of the circumstances
surrounding the death of both minors, their parents, who are the
contending parties herein, posited their respective theories drawn from
their interpretation of circumstantial evidence, available reports,
documents and evidence of physical facts.

Private respondents, bereaved over the death of their daughter, submitted
that Wendell caused her death by shooting her with the aforesaid firearm
and, thereafter, turning the gun on himself to commit suicide. On the
other hand, Petitioners, puzzled and likewise distressed over the death of
their son, rejected the imputation and contended that an unknown third
party, whom Wendell may have displeased or antagonized by reason of his
work as a narcotics informer of the Constabulary Anti-Narcotics Unit
(CANU), must have caused Wendells death and then shot Julie Ann to
eliminate any witness and thereby avoid identification.

As a result of the tragedy, the parents of Julie Ann filed Civil Case No. R-
17774 in the then Court of First Instance of Cebu against the parents of
Wendell to recover damages arising from the latters vicarious liability
under Article 2180 of the Civil Code. After trial, the court below rendered
judgment on October 20, 1980 as follows:

"WHEREFORE, premises duly considered, judgment is hereby rendered
dismissing plaintiffs complaint for insufficiency of the evidence.
Defendants counterclaim is likewise denied for lack of sufficient merit." 2

On appeal to respondent court, said judgment of the lower court
dismissing the complaint of therein plaintiffs-appellants was set aside and
another judgment was rendered against defendants-appellees who, as
petitioners in the present appeal by certiorari, now submit for resolution
the following issues in this case:

1. Whether or not respondent court correctly reversed the trial court in
accordance with established decisional laws; and

2. Whether or not Article 2180 of the Civil Code was correctly interpreted
by respondent court to make petitioners liable for vicarious liability. 3

In the proceedings before the trial court, Dr. Jesus P. Cerna, Police
Medico-Legal Officer of Cebu, submitted his findings and opinions on some
postulates for determining whether or not the gunshot wound was inflicted
on Wendell Libi by his own suicidal act. However, undue emphasis was
placed by the lower court on the absence of gunpowder or tattooing
around the wound at the point of entry of the bullet. It should be
emphasized, however, that this is not the only circumstance to be taken
into account in the determination of whether it was suicide or not.

It is true that said witness declared that he found no evidence of contact
or close-contact of an explosive discharge in the entrance wound.
However, as pointed out by private respondents, the body of deceased
Wendell Libi must have been washed at the funeral parlor, considering the
hasty interment thereof a little after eight (8) hours from the occurrence
wherein he died. Dr. Cerna himself could not categorically state that the
body of Wendell Libi was left untouched at the funeral parlor before he was
able to conduct his autopsy. It will also be noted that Dr. Cerna was
negligent in not conducting a paraffin test on Wendell Libi, hence possible
evidence of gunpowder residue on Wendells hands was forever lost when
Wendell was hastily buried.

More specifically, Dr. Cerna testified that he conducted an autopsy on the
body of Wendell Libi about eight (8) hours after the incident or, to be
exact, eight (8) hours and twenty (20) minutes based on the record of
death; that when he arrived at the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes, the body
of the deceased was already on the autopsy table and in the stage of rigor
mortis; and that said body was not washed, but it was dried. 4 However,
on redirect examination, he admitted that during the 8-hour interval, he
never saw the body nor did he see whether said body was wiped or
washed in the area of the wound on the head which he examined because
the deceased was inside the morgue. 5 In fact, on cross-examination, he
had earlier admitted that as far as the entrance of the wound, the
trajectory of the bullet and the exit of the wound are concerned, it is
possible that Wendell Libi shot himself. 6

He further testified that the muzzle of the gun was not pressed on the
head of the victim and that he found no burning or singeing of the hair or
extensive laceration on the gunshot wound of entrance which are general
characteristics of contact or near-contact fire. On direct examination, Dr.
Cerna nonetheless made these clarification:

"Q Is it not a fact that there are certain guns which are so made that there
would be no black residue or tattooing that could result from these guns
because they are what we call clean?

A Yes, sir. I know that there are what we call smokeless powder.

ATTY. ORTIZ:

Q Yes. So, in cases, therefore, of guns where the powder is smokeless,
those indications that you said may not rule out the possibility that the
gun was closer than 24 inches, is that correct?

A If the . . . assuming that the gun used was .. the bullet used was a
8

smokeless powder.

Q At any rate, doctor, from . . . disregarding those other matters that you
have noticed, the singeing, etc., from the trajectory, based on the
trajectory of the bullet as shown in your own sketch, is it not a fact that
the gun could have been fired by the person himself, the victim himself,
Wendell Libi, because it shows a point of entry a little above the right ear
and point of exit a little above that, to be very fair and on your oath?

A As far as the point of entrance is concerned and as far as the trajectory
of the bullet is concerned and as far as the angle or the manner of fire is
concerned, it could have been fired by the victim." 7

As shown by the evidence, there were only two used bullets 8 found at the
scene of the crime, each of which were the bullets that hit Julie Ann
Gotiong and Wendell Libi, respectively. Also, the sketch prepared by the
Medico-Legal Division of the National Bureau of Investigation, 9 shows that
there is only one gunshot wound of entrance located at the right temple of
Wendell Libi. The necropsy report prepared by Dr. Cerna
states:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
x x x


"Gunshot wound, ENTRANCE, ovaloid, 0.5 x 0.4 cm., with contusion collar
widest inferiorly by 0.2 cm., edges inverted, oriented upward, located at
the head, temporal region, right, 2.8 cms. behind and 5.5 cms. above
right external auditory meatus, directed slightly forward, upward and to
the left, involving skin and soft tissues, making a punch-in fracture on the
temporal bone, right, penetrating cranial cavity, lacerating extensively
along its course the brain tissues, fracturing parietal bone, left, and finally
making an EXIT wound, irregular, 2.0 x 1.8 cms., edges (e)verted, parietal
region, left, 2.0 cms. behind and 12.9 cms. above left external auditory
meatus.chanrobles virtualawlibrary chanrobles.com:chanrobles.com.ph
x x x


"Evidence of contact or close-contact fire, such as burning around the
gunshot wound of entrance, gunpowder tatooing (sic), smudging, singeing
of hair, extensive laceration or bursting of the gunshot wound of entrance,
or separation of the skin from the underlying tissue, are absent." 10

On cross-examination, Dr. Cerna demonstrated his theory which was made
of record, thus:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Q Now, will you please use yourself as Wendell Libi, and following the
entrance of the wound, the trajectory of the bullet and the exit of the
wound, and measuring yourself 24 inches, will you please indicate to the
Honorable Court how would it have been possible for Wendell Libi to kill
himself? Will you please indicate the 24 inches?

WITNESS:

A Actually, sir, the 24 inches is approximately one arms length.

ATTY. SENINING:

I would like to make of record that the witness has demonstrated by
extending his right arm almost straight towards his head." 11

Private respondents assail the fact that the trial court gave credence to the
testimonies of defendants witnesses Lydia Ang and James Enrique Tan,
the first being a resident of an apartment across the street from the
Gotiongs and the second, a resident of the house adjacent to the Gotiong
residence, who declared having seen a "shadow" of a person at the gate of
the Gotiong house after hearing shots therefrom.

On cross-examination, Lydia Ang testified that the apartment where she
was staying faces the gas station; that it is the second apartment; that
from her window she can see directly the gate of the Gotiongs and, that
there is a firewall between her apartment and the gas station. 12 After
seeing a man jump from the gate of the Gotiongs to the rooftop of the
Tans, she called the police station but the telephone lines were busy. Later
on, she talked with James Enrique Tan and told him that she saw a man
leap from the gate towards his rooftop. 13

However, James Enrique Tan testified that he saw a "shadow" on top of
the gate of the Gotiongs, but denied having talked with anyone regarding
what he saw. He explained that he lives in a duplex house with a garden in
front of it; that his house is next to Felipe Gotiongs house; and he further
gave the following answers to these questions:chanrobles.com : virtual
law library

"ATTY. ORTIZ: (TO WITNESS).

Q What is the height of the wall of the Gotiongs in relation to your house?

WITNESS:

A It is about 8 feet.

ATTY. ORTIZ: (TO WITNESS)

Q And where were you looking from?

WITNESS:

9

A From upstairs in my living room.

ATTY. ORTIZ (TO WITNESS)

Q From Your living room window, is that correct?

WITNESS:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

A Yes, but not very clear because the wall is high." 14

Analyzing the foregoing testimonies, we agree with respondent court that
the same do not inspire credence as to the reliability and accuracy of the
witnesses observations, since the visual perceptions of both were
obstructed by high walls in their respective houses in relation to the house
of herein private respondents. On the other hand, witness Manolo Alfonso,
testifying on rebuttal, attested without contradiction that he and his sister,
Malou Alfonso, were waiting for Julie Ann Gotiong when they heard her
scream; that when Manolo climbed the fence to see what was going on
inside the Gotiong house, he heard the first shot; and, not more than five
(5) seconds later, he heard another shot. Consequently, he went down
from the fence and drove to the police station to report the incident. 15
Manolos direct and candid testimony establishes and explains the fact that
it was he whom Lydia Ang and James Enrique Tan saw as the "shadow" of
a man at the gate of the Gotiong house.

We have perforce to reject petitioners effete and unsubstantiated
pretension that it was another man who shot Wendell and Julie Ann. It is
significant that the Libi family did not even point to or present any suspect
in the crime nor did they file any case against any alleged "John Doe." Nor
can we sustain the trial courts dubious theory that Wendell Libi did not die
by his own hand because of the overwhelming evidence testimonial,
documentary and pictorial the confluence of which point to Wendell as
the assailant of Julie Ann, his motive being revenge for her rejection of his
persistent pleas for a reconciliation.

Petitioners defense that they had exercised the due diligence of a good
father of a family, hence they should not be civilly liable for the crime
committed by their minor son, is not borne out by the evidence on record
either.

Petitioner Amelita Yap Libi, mother of Wendell, testified that her husband,
Cresencio Libi, owns a gun which he kept in a safety deposit box inside a
drawer in their bedroom. Each of these petitioners holds a key to the
safety deposit box and Amelitas key is always in her bag, all of which
facts were known to Wendell. They have never seen their son Wendell
taking or using the gun. She admitted, however, that on that fateful night
the gun was no longer in the safety deposit box. 16 We, accordingly,
cannot but entertain serious doubts that petitioner spouses had really
been exercising the diligence of a good father of a family by safely locking
the fatal gun away. Wendell could not have gotten hold thereof unless one
of the keys to the safety deposit box was negligently left lying around or
he had free access to the bag of his mother where the other key was.

The diligence of a good father of a family required by law in a
parent and child relationship consists, to a large extent, of the
instruction and supervision of the child. Petitioners were gravely
remiss in their duties as parents in not diligently supervising the
activities of their son, despite his minority and immaturity, so
much so that it was only at the time of Wendells death that they
allegedly discovered that he was a CANU agent and that
Cresencios gun was missing from the safety deposit box. Both
parents were sadly wanting in their duty and responsibility in
monitoring and knowing the activities of their children who, for all
they know, may be engaged in dangerous work such as being drug
informers, 17 or even drug users. Neither was a plausible explanation
given for the photograph of Wendell, with a handwritten dedication to Julie
Ann at the back thereof, 18 holding upright what clearly appears as a
revolver and on how or why he was in possession of that firearm.

In setting aside the judgment of the court a quo and holding petitioners
civilly liable, as explained at the start of this opinion, respondent court
waved aside the protestations of diligence on the part of petitioners and
had this to say:

". . . It is still the duty of parents to know the activity of their
children who may be engaged in this dangerous activity involving
the menace of drugs. Had the defendants-appellees been diligent
in supervising the activities of their son, Wendell, and in keeping
said gun from his reach, they could have prevented Wendell from
killing Julie Ann Gotiong. Therefore, appellants are liable under Article
2180 of the Civil Code which provides:

The father, and in case of his death or incapacity, the mother, are
responsible for the damages caused by their minor children who
live in their company.

"Having been grossly negligent in preventing Wendell Libi from
having access to said gun which was allegedly kept in a safety
deposit box, defendants-appellees are subsidiarily liable for the
natural consequence of the criminal act of said minor who was
living in their company. This vicarious liability of herein defendants-
appellees has been reiterated by the Supreme Court in many cases,
prominent of which is the case of Fuellas v. Cadano, et. al. (L-14409, Oct.
31, 1961, 3 SCRA 361-367), which held that:

The subsidiary liability of parents for damages caused by their
10

minor children imposed by Article 2180 of the New Civil Code
covers obligations arising from both quasi-delicts and criminal
offenses.

The subsidiary liability of parents arising from the criminal acts of
their minor children who acted with discernment is determined under
the provisions of Article 2180, N.C.C. and under Article 101 of the Revised
Penal Code, because to hold that the former only covers obligations
which arise from quasi-delicts and not obligations which arise from
criminal offenses, would result in the absurdity that while for an
act where mere negligence intervenes the father or mother may
stand subsidiarily liable for the damages caused by his or her son,
no liability would attach if the damage is caused with criminal
intent. (3 SCRA 361-362).

". . . In the instant case, minor son of herein defendants-appellees,
Wendell Libi somehow got hold of the key to the drawer where said gun
was kept under lock without defendant-spouses ever knowing that said
gun had been missing from that safety box since 1978 when Wendell Libi
had) a picture taken wherein he proudly displayed said gun and dedicated
this picture to his sweetheart, Julie Ann Gotiong; also since then, Wendell
Libi was said to have kept said gun in his car, in keeping up with his
supposed role of a CANU agent . . ."
x x x


"Based on the foregoing discussions of the assigned errors, this Court
holds that the lower court was not correct in dismissing herein plaintiffs-
appellants complaint because as preponderantly shown by evidence,
defendants-appellees utterly failed to exercise all the diligence of a
good father of the family in preventing their minor son from
committing this crime by means of the gun of defendants-
appellees which was freely accessible to Wendell Libi for they have
not regularly checked whether said gun was still under lock, but
learned that it was missing from the safety deposit box only after
the crime had been committed." (Emphases ours.) 19

We agree with the conclusion of respondent court that petitioners
should be held liable for the civil liability based on what appears
from all indications was a crime committed by their minor son. We
take this opportunity, however, to digress and discuss its ratiocination
therefor on jurisprudential dicta which we feel require clarification.

In imposing sanctions for the so-called vicarious liability of petitioners,
respondent court cites Fuellas v. Cadano, Et. Al. 20 which supposedly
holds that" (t)he subsidiary liability of parents for damages caused
by their minor children imposed by Article 2180 of the New Civil Code
covers obligations arising from both quasi-delicts and criminal
offenses," followed by an extended quotation ostensibly from the same
case explaining why under Article 2180 of the Civil Code and Article 101 of
the Revised Penal Code parents should assume subsidiary liability for
damages caused by their minor children. The quoted passages are set out
two paragraphs back, with pertinent underscoring for purposes of the
discussion hereunder.

Now, we do not have any objection to the doctrinal rule holding, the
parents liable, but the categorization of their liability as being subsidiary,
and not primary, in nature requires a hard second look considering
previous decisions of this court on the matter which warrant comparative
analyses. Our concern stems from our readings that if the liability of the
parents for crimes or quasi-delicts of their minor children is subsidiary,
then the parents can neither invoke nor be absolved of civil liability on the
defense that they acted with the diligence of a good father of a family to
prevent damages. On the other hand, if such liability imputed to the
parents is considered direct and primary, that diligence would constitute a
valid and substantial defense.

We believe that the civil liability of parents for quasi-delicts of
their minor children, as contemplated in Article 2180 of the Civil Code,
is primary and not subsidiary. In fact, if we apply Article 2194 of said
code which provides for solidary liability of joint tortfeasors, the persons
responsible for the act or omission, in this case the minor and the father
and, in case of his death of incapacity, the mother, are solidarily liable.
Accordingly, such parental liability is primary and not subsidiary, hence the
last paragraph of Article 2180 provides that" (t)he responsibility treated of
in this article shall cease when the persons herein mentioned prove that
they observed all the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent
damages."

We are also persuaded that the liability of the parents for felonies
committed by their minor children is likewise primary, not subsidiary.
Article 101 of the Revised Penal Code provides:

"ARTICLE 101. Rules regarding civil liability in certain cases.
x x x


First. In cases of subdivisions . . . 2, and 3 of Article 12, the civil liability
for acts committed by . . . a person under nine years of age, or by one
over nine but under fifteen years of age, who has acted without
discernment, shall devolve upon those having such person under their
legal authority or control, unless it appears that there was no fault or
negligence on their part." (Emphasis supplied.) 21

11

Accordingly, just like the rule in Article 2180 of the Civil Code, under the
foregoing provision the civil liability of the parents for crimes
committed by their minor children is likewise direct and primary,
and also subject to the defense of lack of fault or negligence on
their part, that is, the exercise of the diligence of a good father of a
family.

That in both quasi-delicts and crimes the parents primarily respond
for such damages is buttressed by the corresponding provisions in both
codes that the minor transgressor shall be answerable or shall respond
with his own property only in the absence or in case of insolvency of the
former. Thus, for civil liability ex quasi delicto of minors, Article 2182 of
the Civil Code states that" (i)f the minor causing damage has no parents
or guardian, the minor . . . shall be answerable with his own property in an
action against him where a guardian ad litem shall be appointed." For civil
liability ex delicto of minors, an equivalent provision is found in the third
paragraph of Article 101 of the Revised Penal Code, to wit:

"Should there be no person having such . . . minor under his
authority, legal guardianship or control, or if such person be
insolvent, said . . . minor shall respond with (his) own property,
excepting property exempt from execution, in accordance with civil
law."

The civil liability of parents for felonies committed by their minor children
contemplated in the aforesaid rule in Article 101 of the Revised Penal Code
in relation to Article 2180 of the Civil Code has, aside from the aforecited
case of Fuellas, been the subject of a number of cases adjudicated by this
Court, viz.: Exconde v. Capuno, Et Al., 22 Araneta v. Arreglado, 23 Salen,
Et. Al. v. Balce, 24 Paleyan, etc., Et. Al. v. Bangkili, Et Al., 25 and Elcano,
et al, v. Hill, Et. Al. 26 Parenthetically, the aforesaid cases were basically
on the issue of the civil liability of parents for crimes committed by their
minor children over 9 but under 15 years of age, who acted with
discernment, and also of minors 15 years of aye or over, since these
situations are not covered by Article 101, Revised Penal Code. In both
instances, this Court held that the issue of parental civil liability should be
resolved in accordance with the provisions of Article 2180 of the Civil Code
for the reasons well expressed in Salen and adopted in the cases
hereinbefore enumerated that to hold that the civil liability under Article
2180 would apply only to quasi-delicts and not to criminal offenses would
result in the absurdity that in an act involving mere negligence the parents
would be liable but not where the damage is caused with criminal intent.
In said cases, however, there are unfortunate variances resulting in a
regrettable inconsistency in the Courts determination of whether the
liability of the parents, in cases involving either crimes or quasi-delicts of
their minor children, is primary or subsidiary.

In Exconde, where the 15-year old minor was convicted of double
homicide through reckless imprudence, in a separate civil action arising
from the crime the minor and his father were held jointly and severally
liable for failure of the latter to prove the diligence of a good father of a
family. The same liability in solidum and, therefore, primary liability was
imposed in a separate civil action in Araneta on the parents and their 14-
year old son who was found guilty of frustrated homicide, but on the
authority of Article 2194 of the Civil Code providing for solidary
responsibility of two or more persons who are liable for a quasi-delict.

However, in Salen, the father was declared subsidiarily liable for
damages arising from the conviction of his son, who was over 15
but less than 18 years of age, by applying Article 2180 but, this time,
disregarding Article 2194 of the Civil Code. In the present case, as already
explained, the petitioners herein were also held liable but supposedly in
line with Fuellas which purportedly declared the parents subsidiarily liable
for the civil liability for serious physical injuries committed by their 13-year
old son. On the other hand, in Paleyan, the mother and her 19-year old
son were adjudged solidarily liable for damages arising from his conviction
for homicide by the application of Article 2180 of the Civil Code since this
is likewise not covered by Article 101 of the Revised Penal Code. Finally, in
Elcano, although the son was acquitted in a homicide charge due to "lack
of intent, coupled with mistake," it was ruled that while under Article 2180
of the Civil Code there should be solidary liability for damages, since the
son, "although married, was living with his father and getting subsistence
from him at the time of the occurrence," but "is now of age, as a matter of
equity" the father was only held subsidiarily liable.

It bears stressing, however, that the Revised Penal Code provides for
subsidiary liability only for persons causing damages under the compulsion
of irresistible force or under the impulse of an uncontrollable fear; 27
innkeepers, tavernkeepers and proprietors of establishments; 28
employers, teachers, persons and corporations engaged in industry; 29
and principals, accomplices and accessories for the unpaid civil liability of
their co-accused in the other classes. 30

Also, coming back to respondent courts reliance on Fuellas in its decision
in the present case, it is not exactly accurate to say that Fuellas provided
for subsidiary liability of the parents therein. A careful scrutiny shows that
what respondent court quoted verbatim in its decision now on appeal in
the present case, and which it attributed to Fuellas, was the syllabus on
the law report of said case which spoke of "subsidiary" liability. However,
such categorization does not specifically appear in the text of the decision
in Fuellas. In fact, after reviewing therein the cases of Exconde, Araneta
and Salen and the discussions in said cases of Article 101 of the Revised
Penal Code in relation to Article 2180 of the Civil Code, this Court
concluded its decision in this wise:

"Moreover, the case at bar was decided by the Court of Appeals on the
basis of evidence submitted therein by both parties, independent of the
criminal case. And responsibility for fault or negligence under Article 2176
12

upon which the present action was instituted, is entirely separate and
distinct from the civil liability arising from fault or negligence under the
Penal Code (Art. 2177), and having in mind the reasons behind the law as
heretofore stated, any discussion as to the minors criminal responsibility
is of no moment."

Under the foregoing considerations, therefore, we hereby rule that the
parents are and should be held primarily liable for the civil liability
arising from criminal offenses committed by their minor children
under their legal authority or control, or who live in their company,
unless it is proven that the former acted with the diligence of a
good father of a family to prevent such damages. That primary
liability is premised on the provisions of Article 101 of the Revised Penal
Code with respect to damages ex delicto caused by their children 9 years
of age or under, or over 9 but under 15 years of age who acted without
discernment; and, with regard to their children over 9 but under 15 years
of age who acted with discernment, or 15 years or over but under 21
years of age, such primary liability shall be imposed pursuant to Article
2180 of the Civil Code. 31

Under said Article 2180, the enforcement of such liability shall be
effected against the father and, in case of his death or incapacity,
the mother. This was amplified by the Child and Youth Welfare Code
which provides that the same shall devolve upon the father and, in case of
his death or incapacity, upon the mother or, in case of her death or
incapacity, upon the guardian, but the liability may also be voluntarily
assumed by a relative or family friend of the youthful offender. 32
However, under the Family Code, this civil liability is now, without such
alternative qualification, the responsibility of the parents and those who
exercise parental authority over the minor offender. 33 For civil liability
arising from quasi-delicts committed by minors, the same rules shall apply
in accordance with Articles 2180 and 2182 of the Civil Code, as so
modified.

In the case at bar, whether the death of the hapless Julie Ann Gotiong was
caused by a felony or a quasi-delict committed by Wendell Libi, respondent
court did not err in holding petitioners liable for damages arising
therefrom. Subject to the preceding modifications of the premises relied
upon by it therefor and on the bases of the legal imperatives herein
explained, we conjoin in its findings that said petitioners failed to duly
exercise the requisite diligentissimi patris familias to prevent such
damages.

ACCORDINGLY, the instant Petition is DENIED and the assailed judgment
of respondent Court of Appeals is hereby AFFIRMED, with costs against
petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

13

G.R. No. 115640 March 15, 1995
REYNALDO ESPIRITU and GUILLERMA LAYUG, petitioners,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS and TERESITA MASAUDING, respondents.
This case concerns a seemingly void marriage and a relationship which went sour.
The innocent victims are two children horn out of the same union. Upon this Court
now falls the not too welcome task of deciding the issue of who, between the father
and mother, is more suitable and better qualified in helping the children to grow
into responsible, well-adjusted, and happy young adulthood.
Petitioner Reynaldo Espiritu and respondent Teresita Masauding first met sometime
in 1976 in Iligan City where Reynaldo was employed by the National Steel
Corporation and Teresita was employed as a nurse in a local hospital. In 1977,
Teresita left for Los Angeles, California to work as a nurse. She was able to acquire
immigrant status sometime later. In 1984, Reynaldo was sent by his employer, the
National Steel Corporation, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as its liaison officer and
Reynaldo and Teresita then began to maintain a common law relationship of husband
and wife. On August 16, 1986, their daughter, Rosalind Therese, was born. On
October 7, 1987, while they were on a brief vacation in the Philippines, Reynaldo and
Teresita got married, and upon their return to the United States, their second child, a
son, this time, and given the name Reginald Vince, was born on January 12, 1988.
The relationship of the couple deteriorated until they decided to separate sometime in
1990. Teresita blamed Reynaldo for the break-up, stating he was always nagging her
about money matters. Reynaldo, on the other hand, contended that Teresita was a
spendthrift, buying expensive jewelry and antique furniture instead of attending to
household expenses.
Instead of giving their marriage a second chance as allegedly pleaded by Reynaldo,
Teresita left Reynaldo and the children and went back to California. She claims,
however, that she spent a lot of money on long distance telephone calls to keep in
constant touch with her children.
Reynaldo brought his children home to the Philippines, but because his assignment in
Pittsburgh was not yet completed, he was sent back by his company to Pittsburgh. He
had to leave his children with his sister, co-petitioner Guillerma Layug and her family.
Teresita claims that she did not immediately follow her children because Reynaldo
filed a criminal case for bigamy against her and she was afraid of being arrested. The
judgment of conviction in the bigamy case was actually rendered only on September
29, 1994. (Per Judge Harriet O. Demetriou, Branch 70, RTC, Pasig, pp. 210-
222,Rollo). Teresita, meanwhile, decided to return to the Philippines and on
December 8, 1992 and filed the petition for a writ of habeas corpus against herein two
petitioners to gain custody over the children, thus starting the whole proceedings now
reaching this Court.
On June 30, 1993, the trial court dismissed the petition for habeas corpus. It
suspended Teresita's parental authority over Rosalind and Reginald and declared
Reynaldo to have sole parental authority over them but with rights of visitation to be
agreed upon by the parties and to be approved by the Court.
On February 16, 1994, the Court of Appeals per Justice Isnani, with Justices de Pano
and Ibay-Somera concurring, reversed the trial court's decision. It gave custody to
Teresita and visitation rights on weekends to Reynaldo.
Petitioners now come to this Court on a petition for review, in the main contending
that the Court of Appeals disregarded the factual findings of the trial court; that the
Court of Appeals further engaged in speculations and conjectures, resulting in its
erroneous conclusion that custody of the children should be given to respondent
Teresita.
We believe that respondent court resolved the question of custody over the children
through an automatic and blind application of the age proviso of Article 363 of the
Civil Code which reads:
Art. 363. In all questions on the care, custody, education and
property of the children, the latter's welfare shall be paramount. No
mother shall be separated from her child under seven years of
age, unless the court finds compelling reasons for such
measure.
and of Article 213 of the Family Code which in turn provides:
Art. 213. In case of separation of the parents parental authority
shall be exercised by the parent designated by the Court. The
Court shall take into account all relevant considerations, especially
the choice of the child over seven years of age unless the parent
chosen is unfit.
The decision under review is based on the report of the Code Commission which
drafted Article 213 that a child below seven years still needs the loving, tender care
that only a mother can give and which, presumably, a father cannot give in equal
measure. The commentaries of a member of the Code Commission, former Court of
Appeals Justice Alicia Sempio-Diy, in a textbook on the Family Code, were also taken
into account. Justice Diy believes that a child below seven years should still be
awarded to her mother even if the latter is a prostitute or is unfaithful to her
husband. This is on the theory that moral dereliction has no effect on a baby
unable to understand such action. (Handbook on the Family Code of the
Philippines, 1988 Ed., p. 297.)
The Court of Appeals was unduly swayed by an abstract presumption of law rather
than an appreciation of relevant facts and the law which should apply to those facts.
The task of choosing the parent to whom custody shall be awarded is not a ministerial
function to be determined by a simple determination of the age of a minor child.
Whether a child is under or over seven years of age, the paramount criterion must
14

always be the child's interests. Discretion is given to the court to decide who can best
assure the welfare of the child, and award the custody on the basis of that
consideration. In Unson III vs. Navarro (101 SCRA 183 [1980]), we laid down the rule
that "in all controversies regarding the custody of minors, the sole and foremost
consideration is the physical, education, social and moral welfare of the child
concerned, taking into account the respective resources and social and moral
situations of the contending parents", and in Medina vs. Makabali (27 SCRA 502
[1969]), where custody of the minor was given to a non-relative as against the
mother, then the country's leading civilist, Justice J.B.L. Reyes, explained its basis in
this manner:
. . . While our law recognizes the right of a parent to the custody of
her child, Courts must not lose sight of the basic principle that "in
all questions on the care, custody, education and property of
children, the latter's welfare shall be paramount" (Civil Code of
the Philippines. Art. 363), and that for compelling reasons, even a
child under seven may be ordered separated from the mother (do).
This is as it should be, for in the continual evolution of legal
institutions, the patria potestas has been transformed from the jus
vitae ac necis (right of life and death) of the Roman law, under
which the offspring was virtually a chattel of his parents into a
radically different institution, due to the influence of Christian faith
and doctrines. The obligational aspect is now supreme. As pointed
out by Puig Pena, now "there is no power, but a task; no complex of
rights (of parents) but a sum of duties; no sovereignty, but a sacred
trust for the welfare of the minor."
As a result, the right of parents to the company and custody of
their children is but ancillary to the proper discharge of
parental duties to provide the children with adequate support,
education, moral, intellectual and civic training and
development (Civil Code, Art. 356).
(pp. 504-505.)
In ascertaining the welfare and best interests of the child, courts are mandated by the
Family Code to take into account all relevant considerations. If a child is under
seven years of age, the law presumes that the mother is the best custodian.
The presumption is strong but it is not conclusive. It can be overcome by
"compelling reasons". If a child is over seven, his choice is paramount but,
again, the court is not bound by that choice. In its discretion, the court may find
the chosen parent unfit and award custody to the other parent, or even to a
third party as it deems fit under the circumstances.
In the present case, both Rosalind and Reginald are now over seven years of
age. Rosalind celebrated her seventh birthday on August 16, 1993 while Reginald
reached the same age on January 12, 1995. Both are studying in reputable schools
and appear to be fairly intelligent children, quite capable of thoughtfully determining
the parent with whom they would want to live. Once the choice has been made, the
burden returns to the court to investigate if the parent thus chosen is unfit to
assume parental authority and custodial responsibility.
Herein lies the error of the Court of Appeals. Instead of scrutinizing the records to
discover the choice of the children and rather than verifying whether that parent is fit
or unfit, respondent court simply followed statutory presumptions and general
propositions applicable to ordinary or common situations. The seven-year age limit
was mechanically treated as an arbitrary cut off period and not a guide based on a
strong presumption.
A scrutiny of the pleadings in this case indicates that Teresita, or at least, her counsel
are more intent on emphasizing the "torture and agony" of a mother separated from
her children and the humiliation she suffered as a result of her character being made
a key issue in court rather than the feelings and future, the best interests and welfare
of her children. While the bonds between a mother and her small child are special in
nature, either parent, whether father or mother, is bound to suffer agony and pain if
deprived of custody. One cannot say that his or her suffering is greater than that
of the other parent. It is not so much the suffering, pride, and other feelings of
either parent but the welfare of the child which is the paramount consideration.
We are inclined to sustain the findings and conclusions of the regional trial court
because it gave greater attention to the choice of Rosalind and considered in detail all
the relevant factors bearing on the issue of custody.
When she was a little over 5 years old, Rosalind was referred to a child psychologist,
Rita Flores Macabulos, to determine the effects of uprooting her from the Assumption
College where she was studying. Four different tests were administered. The results
of the tests are quite revealing. The responses of Rosalind about her mother were
very negative causing the psychologist to delve deeper into the child's anxiety.
Among the things revealed by Rosalind was an incident where she saw her mother
hugging and kissing a "bad" man who lived in their house and worked for her father.
Rosalind refused to talk to her mother even on the telephone. She tended to be
emotionally emblazed because of constant fears that she may have to leave school
and her aunt's family to go back to the United States to live with her mother. The 5-
1/2 page report deals at length with feelings of insecurity and anxiety arising from
strong conflict with the mother. The child tried to compensate by having fantasy
activities. All of the 8 recommendations of the child psychologist show that Rosalind
chooses petitioners over the private respondent and that her welfare will be best
served by staying with them (pp. 199-205, Rollo).
At about the same time, a social welfare case study was conducted for the purpose of
securing the travel clearance required before minors may go abroad. Social Welfare
Officer Emma D. Estrada Lopez, stated that the child Rosalind refused to go back to
the United States and be reunited with her mother. She felt unloved and uncared for.
Rosalind was more attached to her Yaya who did everything for her and Reginald.
The child was found suffering from emotional shock caused by her mother's
infidelity. The application for travel clearance was recommended for denial (pp. 206-
209, Rollo).
15

Respondent Teresita, for her part, argues that the 7-year age reference in the law
applies to the date when the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is filed, not to
the date when a decision is rendered. This argument is flawed. Considerations
involving the choice made by a child must be ascertained at the time that either
parent is given custody over the child. The matter of custody is not permanent
and unalterable. If the parent who was given custody suffers a future character
change and becomes unfit, the matter of custody can always be re-examined
and adjusted (Unson III v. Navarro, supra, at p. 189). To be sure, the welfare, the
best interests, the benefit, and the good of the child must be determined as of the
time that either parent is chosen to be the custodian. At the present time, both
children are over 7 years of age and are thus perfectly capable of making a fairly
intelligent choice.
According to respondent Teresita, she and her children had tearful reunion in the trial
court, with the children crying, grabbing, and embracing her to prevent the father from
taking them away from her. We are more inclined to believe the father's contention
that the children ignored Teresita in court because such an emotional display as
described by Teresita in her pleadings could not have been missed by the trial court.
Unlike the Justices of the Court of Appeals Fourth Division, Judge Lucas P. Bersamin
personally observed the children and their mother in the courtroom. What the Judge
found is diametrically opposed to the contentions of respondent Teresita. The Judge
had this to say on the matter.
And, lastly, the Court cannot look at petitioner [Teresita] in similar
light, or with more understanding, especially as her conduct and
demeanor in the courtroom (during most of the proceedings) or
elsewhere (but in the presence of the undersigned presiding judge)
demonstrated her ebulent temper that tended to corroborate the
alleged violence of her physical punishment of the children (even if
only for ordinary disciplinary purposes) and emotional instability,
typified by her failure (or refusal?) to show deference and respect to
the Court and the other parties (pp. 12-13, RTC Decision)
Respondent Teresita also questions the competence and impartiality of the expert
witnesses. Respondent court, in turn, states that the trial court should have
considered the fact that Reynaldo and his sister, herein petitioner Guillerma Layug,
hired the two expert witnesses. Actually, this was taken into account by the trial court
which stated that the allegations of bias and unfairness made by Teresita against the
psychologist and social worker were not substantiated.
The trial court stated that the professional integrity and competence of the expert
witnesses and the objectivity of the interviews were unshaken and unimpeached. We
might add that their testimony remain uncontroverted. We also note that the
examinations made by the experts were conducted in late 1991, well over a year
before the filing by Teresita of the habeas corpus petition in December, 1992. Thus,
the examinations were at that time not intended to support petitioners' position in
litigation, because there was then not even an impending possibility of one. That they
were subsequently utilized in the case a quo when it did materialize does not change
the tenor in which they were first obtained.
Furthermore, such examinations, when presented to the court must be construed to
have been presented not to sway the court in favor of any of the parties, but to assist
the court in the determination of the issue before it. The persons who effected such
examinations were presented in the capacity of expert witnesses testifying on matters
within their respective knowledge and expertise. On this matter, this Court had
occasion to rule in the case of Sali vs. Abukakar, et al. (17 SCRA 988 [1966]).
The fact that, in a particular litigation, an NBI expert examines
certain contested documents, at the request, not of a public officer
or agency of the Government, but of a private litigant, does not
necessarily nullify the examination thus made. Its purpose,
presumably, to assist the court having jurisdiction over said
litigation, in the performance of its duty to settle correctly the issues
relative to said documents. Even a non-expert private individual
may examine the same, if there are facts within his knowledge
which may help, the court in the determination of said issue. Such
examination, which may properly be undertaken by a non-expert
private individual, does not, certainly become null and void when
the examiner is an expert and/or an officer of the NBI.
(pp. 991-992.)
In regard to testimony of expert witnesses it was held in Salomon, et
al. vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, et al. (185 SCRA 352 [1990]):
. . . Although courts are not ordinarily bound by expert testimonies,
they may place whatever weight they choose upon such
testimonies in accordance with the facts of the case. The relative
weight and sufficiency of expert testimony is peculiarly within the
province of the trial court to decide, considering the ability and
character of the witness, his actions upon the witness stand, the
weight and process of the reasoning by which he has supported his
opinion, his possible bias in favor of the side for whom he testifies,
the fact that he is a paid witness, the relative opportunities for study
and observation of the matters about which he testifies, and any
other matters which reserve to illuminate his statements. The
opinion of the expert may not be arbitrarily rejected; it is to be
considered by the court in view of all the facts and circumstances in
the case and when common knowledge utterly fails, the expert
opinion may be given controlling effect (20 Am. Jur., 1056-1058).
The problem of the credibility of the expert witness and the
evaluation of his testimony is left to the discretion of the trial court
whose ruling thereupon is not reviewable in the absence of an
abuse of that discretion.
(p. 359)
It was in the exercise of this discretion, coupled with the opportunity to assess the
witnesses' character and to observe their respective demeanor that the trial court
16

opted to rely on their testimony, and we believe that the trial court was correct in its
action.
Under direct examination an February 4, 1993, Social Worker Lopez stated that
Rosalind and her aunt were about to board a plane when they were off-loaded
because there was no required clearance. They were referred to her office, at which
time Reginald was also brought along and interviewed. One of the regular duties of
Social Worker Lopez in her job appears to be the interview of minors who leave for
abroad with their parents or other persons. The interview was for purposes of foreign
travel by a 5-year old child and had nothing to do with any pending litigation. On
cross-examination, Social Worker Lopez stated that her assessment of the minor's
hatred for her mother was based on the disclosures of the minor. It is inconceivable,
much less presumable that Ms. Lopez would compromise her position, ethics, and the
public trust reposed on a person of her position in the course of doing her job by
falsely testifying just to support the position of any litigant.
The psychologist, Ms. Macabulos, is a B.S. magna cum laude graduate in Psychology
and an M.A. degree holder also in Psychology with her thesis graded "Excellent". She
was a candidate for a doctoral degree at the time of the interview. Petitioner Reynaldo
may have shouldered the cost of the interview but Ms. Macabulos services were
secured because Assumption College wanted an examination of the child for school
purposes and not because of any litigation. She may have been paid to examine the
child and to render a finding based on her examination, but she was not paid to
fabricate such findings in favor of the party who retained her services. In this instance
it was not even petitioner Reynaldo but the school authorities who initiated the same.
It cannot be presumed that a professional of her potential and stature would
compromise her professional standing.
Teresita questions the findings of the trial court that:
1. Her morality is questionable as shown by her marrying Reynaldo
at the time she had a subsisting marriage with another man.
2. She is guilty of grave indiscretion in carrying on a love affair with
one of the Reynaldo's fellow NSC employees.
3. She is incapable of providing the children with necessities and
conveniences commensurate to their social standing because she
does not even own any home in the Philippines.
4. She is emotionally unstable with ebullient temper.
It is contended that the above findings do not constitute the compelling reasons under
the law which would justify depriving her of custody over the children; worse, she
claims, these findings are non-existent and have not been proved by clear and
convincing evidence.
Public and private respondents give undue weight to the matter of a child under 7
years of age not to be separated from the mother, without considering what the law
itself denominates as compelling reasons or relevant considerations to otherwise
decree. In the Unson III case, earlier mentioned, this Court stated that it found no
difficulty in not awarding custody to the mother, it being in the best interest of the child
"to be freed from the obviously unwholesome, not
to say immoral influence, that the situation where [the mother] had placed herself . . .
might create in the moral and social outlook of [the child] who was in her formative
and most impressionable stage . . ."
Then too, it must be noted that both Rosalind and Reginald are now over 7 years of
age. They understand the difference between right and wrong, ethical behavior and
deviant immorality. Their best interests would be better served in an environment
characterized by emotional stability and a certain degree of material sufficiency.
There is nothing in the records to show that Reynaldo is an "unfit" person
under Article 213 of the Family Code. In fact, he has been trying his best to give
the children the kind of attention and care which the mother is not in a position
to extend.
The argument that the charges against the mother are false is not supported by the
records. The findings of the trial court are based on evidence.
Teresita does not deny that she was legally married to Roberto Lustado on December
17, 1984 in California (p. 13, Respondent's Memorandum; p. 238, Rollo; pp. 11, RTC
Decision). Less than a year later, she had already driven across the continental
United States to commence living with another man, petitioner Reynaldo, in
Pittsburgh. The two were married on October 7, 1987. Of course, to dilute this
disadvantage on her part, this matter of her having contracted a bigamous marriage
later with Reynaldo, Teresita tried to picture Reynaldo as a rapist, alleging further that
she told Reynaldo about her marriage to Lustado on the occasion when she was
raped by Reynaldo. Expectedly, Judge Harriet Demetriou of the Pasig RTC lent no
weight to such tale. And even if this story were given credence, it adds to and not
subtracts from the conviction of this Court about Teresita's values. Rape is an
insidious crime against privacy. Confiding to one's potential rapist about a prior
marriage is not a very convincing indication that the potential victim is averse to the
act. The implication created is that the act would be acceptable if not for the prior
marriage.
More likely is Reynaldo's story that he learned of the prior marriage only much later.
In fact, the rape incident itself is unlikely against a woman who had driven three days
and three nights from California, who went straight to the house of Reynaldo in
Pittsburgh and upon arriving went to bed and, who immediately thereafter started to
live with him in a relationship which is marital in nature if not in fact.
Judge Bersamin of the court a quo believed the testimony of the various witnesses
that while married to Reynaldo, Teresita entered into an illicit relationship with
Perdencio Gonzales right there in the house of petitioner Reynaldo and respondent
Teresita. Perdencio had been assigned by the National Steel Corporation to assist in
the project in Pittsburgh and was staying with Reynaldo, his co-employee, in the
latter's house. The record shows that the daughter Rosalind suffered emotional
disturbance caused by the traumatic effect of seeing her mother hugging and kissing
a boarder in their house. The record also shows that it was Teresita who left the
17

conjugal home and the children, bound for California. When Perdencio Gonzales was
reassigned to the Philippines, Teresita followed him and was seen in his company in
a Cebu hotel, staying in one room and taking breakfast together. More significant is
that letters and written messages from Teresita to Perdencio were submitted in
evidence (p.12, RTC Decision).
The argument that moral laxity or the habit of flirting from one man to another
does not fall under "compelling reasons" is neither meritorious nor applicable
in this case. Not only are the children over seven years old and their clear
choice is the father, but the illicit or immoral activities of the mother had
already caused emotional disturbances, personality conflicts, and exposure to
conflicting moral values, at least in Rosalind. This is not to mention her
conviction for the crime of bigamy, which from the records appears to have
become final (pp. 210-222, Rollo).
Respondent court's finding that the father could not very well perform the role of a
sole parent and substitute mother because his job is in the United States while the
children will be left behind with their aunt in the Philippines is misplaced. The
assignment of Reynaldo in Pittsburgh is or was a temporary one. He was sent there
to oversee the purchase of a steel mill component and various equipment needed by
the National Steel Corporation in the Philippines. Once the purchases are completed,
there is nothing to keep him there anymore. In fact, in a letter dated January 30,
1995, Reynaldo informs this Court of the completion of his assignment abroad and of
his permanent return to the Philippines (ff.
p. 263, Rollo).
The law is more than satisfied by the judgment of the trial court. The children are now
both over seven years old. Their choice of the parent with whom they prefer to stay is
clear from the record. From all indications, Reynaldo is a fit person, thus meeting the
two requirements found in the first paragraph of Article 213 of the Family Code. The
presumption under the second paragraph of said article no longer applies as the
children are over seven years. Assuming that the presumption should have
persuasive value for children only one or two years beyond the age of seven years
mentioned in the statute, there are compelling reasons and relevant considerations
not to grant custody to the mother. The children understand the unfortunate
shortcomings of their mother and have been affected in their emotional growth by her
behavior.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The decision of the Court of
Appeals is reversed and set aside, and the decision of Branch 96 of the Regional
Trial Court of the National Capital Judicial Region stationed in Quezon City and
presided over by the Honorable Lucas P. Bersamin in its Civil Case No. Q-92-14206
awarding custody of the minors Rosalind and Reginald Espiritu to their father,
Reynaldo Espiritu, is reinstated. No special pronouncement is made as to costs.
SO ORDERED.

18

G.R. No. 113054 March 16, 1995
LEOUEL SANTOS, SR., petitioner-appellant,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS, and SPOUSES LEOPOLDO and OFELIA
BEDIA, respondents-appellees.
In this petition for review, we are asked to overturn the decision of the Court of
Appeals
1
granting custody of six-year old Leouel Santos, Jr. to his maternal
grandparents and not to his father, Santos, Sr. What is sought is a decision which
should definitively settle the matter of the care, custody and control of the boy.
Happily, unlike King Solomon, we need not merely rely on a "wise and understanding
heart," for there is man's law to guide us and that is, the Family Code.
The antecedent facts giving rise to the case at bench are as follows:
Petitioner Leouel Santos, Sr., an army lieutenant, and Julia Bedia a nurse by
profession, were married in Iloilo City in 1986. Their union beget only one child,
Leouel Santos, Jr. who was born July 18, 1987.
From the time the boy was released from the hospital until sometime thereafter, he
had been in the care and custody of his maternal grandparents, private respondents
herein, Leopoldo and Ofelia Bedia.
Petitioner and wife Julia agreed to place Leouel Jr. in the temporary custody of the
latter's parents, the respondent spouses Bedia. The latter alleged that they paid for all
the hospital bills, as well as the subsequent support of the boy because petitioner
could not afford to do so.
The boy's mother, Julia Bedia-Santos, left for the United States in May 1988 to work.
Petitioner alleged that he is not aware of her whereabouts and his efforts to locate her
in the United States proved futile. Private respondents claim that although abroad,
their daughter Julia had been sending financial support to them for her son.
On September 2, 1990, petitioner along with his two brothers, visited the Bedia
household, where three-year old Leouel Jr. was staying. Private respondents contend
that through deceit and false pretensions, petitioner abducted the boy and
clandestinely spirited him away to his hometown in Bacong, Negros Oriental.
The spouses Bedia then filed a "Petition for Care, Custody and Control of Minor Ward
Leouel Santos Jr.," before the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City, with Santos, Sr. as
respondent.
2

After an ex-parte hearing on October 8, 1990, the trial court issued an order on the
same day awarding custody of the child Leouel Santos, Jr. to his grandparents,
Leopoldo and Ofelia Bedia.
3

Petitioner appealed this Order to the Court of Appeals.
4
In its decision dated April 30,
1992, respondent appellate court affirmed the trial court's
order.
5
His motion for reconsideration having been denied,
6
petitioner now brings the
instant petition for review for a reversal of the appellate court's decision.
The Court of Appeals erred, according to petitioner, in awarding custody of the boy to
his grandparents and not to himself. He contends that since private respondents have
failed to show that petitioner is an unfit and unsuitable father, substitute parental
authority granted to the boy's grandparents under Art. 214 of the Family Code is
inappropriate.
Petitioner adds that the reasons relied upon by the private respondents in having
custody over the boy, are flimsy and insufficient to deprive him of his natural and legal
right to have custody.
On the other hand, private respondents aver that they can provide an air-conditioned
room for the boy and that petitioner would not be in a position to take care of his son
since he has to be assigned to different places. They also allege that the petitioner
did not give a single centavo for the boy's support and maintenance. When the boy
was about to be released from the hospital, they were the ones who paid the fees
because their daughter and petitioner had no money. Besides, Julia Bedia Santos,
their daughter, had entrusted the boy to them before she left for the United States.
Furthermore, petitioner's use of trickery and deceit in abducting the child in 1990,
after being hospitably treated by private respondents, does not speak well of his
fitness and suitability as a parent.
The Bedias argue that although the law recognizes the right of a parent to his child's
custody, ultimately the primary consideration is what is best for the happiness and
welfare of the latter. As maternal grandparents who have amply demonstrated their
love and affection for the boy since his infancy, they claim to be in the best position to
promote the child's welfare.
The issue to be resolved here boils down to who should properly be awarded custody
of the minor Leouel Santos, Jr.
The right of custody accorded to parents springs from the exercise of parental
authority. Parental authority or patria potestas in Roman Law is the juridical
institution whereby parents rightfully assume control and protection of their
unemancipated children to the extent required by the latter' s needs.
7
It is a
mass of rights and obligations which the law grants to parents for the purpose of the
children's physical preservation and development, as well as the cultivation of their
intellect and the education of their heart and senses.
8
As regards parental authority,
"there is no power, but a task; no complex of rights, but a sum of duties; no
sovereignty but a sacred trust for the welfare of the minor."
9

Parental authority and responsibility are inalienable and may not be transferred
or renounced except in cases authorized by law.
10
The right attached to
parental authority, being purely personal, the law allows a waiver of parental
authority only in cases of adoption, guardianship and surrender to a children's
19

home or an orphan institution.
11
When a parent entrusts the custody of a minor
to another, such as a friend or godfather, even in a document, what is given is
merely temporary custody and it does not constitute a renunciation of parental
authority.
12
Even if a definite renunciation is manifest, the law still disallows
the same.
13

The father and mother, being the natural guardians of unemancipated children,
are duty-bound and entitled to keep them in their custody and
company.
14
The child's welfare is always the paramount consideration in all
questions concerning his care and custody.
15

The law vests on the father and mother joint parental authority over the
persons of their common children.
16
In case of absence or death of either
parent, the parent present shall continue exercising parental authority.
17
Only
in case of the parents' death, absence or unsuitability may substitute parental
authority be exercised by the surviving grandparent.
18
The situation obtaining in
the case at bench is one where the mother of the minor Santos, Jr., is working in the
United States while the father, petitioner Santos, Sr., is present. Not only are they
physically apart but are also emotionally separated. There has been no decree of
legal separation and petitioner's attempt to obtain an annulment of the marriage on
the ground of psychological incapacity of his wife has failed.
19

Petitioner assails the decisions of both the trial court and the appellate court to award
custody of his minor son to his parents-in-law, the Bedia spouses on the ground that
under Art. 214 of the Family Code, substitute parental authority of the grandparents is
proper only when both parents are dead, absent or unsuitable. Petitioner's unfitness,
according to him, has not been successfully shown by private respondents.
The Court of Appeals held that although there is no evidence to show that petitioner
(Santos Sr.) is "depraved, a habitual drunkard or poor, he may nevertheless be
considered, as he is in fact so considered, to be unsuitable to be allowed to have
custody of minor Leouel Santos Jr."
20

The respondent appellate court, in affirming the trial court's order of October 8, 1990,
adopted as its own the latter's observations, to wit:
From the evidence adduced, this Court is of the opinion that it is to
be (sic) best interest of the minor Leouel Santos, Jr. that he be
placed under the care, custody, and control of his maternal
grandparents the petitioners herein. The petitioners have amply
demonstrated their love and devotion to their grandson while the
natural father, respondent herein, has shown little interest in his
welfare as reflected by his conduct in the past. Moreover the fact
that petitioners are well-off financially, should be carefully
considered in awarding to them the custody of the minor herein,
lest the breaking of such ties with his maternal grandparents might
deprive the boy of an eventual college education and other material
advantages (Consaul vs. Consaul, 63 N.Y.S. 688). Respondent had
never given any previous financial support to his son, while, upon
the other hand, the latter receives so much bounty from his
maternal grandparents and his mother as well, who is now gainfully
employed in the United States. Moreover, the fact that respondent,
as a military personnel who has to shuttle from one assignment to
another, and, in these troubled times, may have pressing and
compelling military duties which may prevent him from attending to
his son at times when the latter needs him most, militates strongly
against said respondent. Additionally, the child is sickly and
asthmatic and needs the loving and tender care of those who can
provide for it.
21

We find the aforementioned considerations insufficient to defeat petitioner's parental
authority and the concomitant right to have custody over the minor Leouel Santos, Jr.,
particularly since he has not been shown to be an unsuitable and unfit parent. Private
respondents' demonstrated love and affection for the boy, notwithstanding, the
legitimate father is still preferred over the grandparents.
22
The latter's wealth is not a
deciding factor, particularly because there is no proof that at the present time,
petitioner is in no position to support the boy. The fact that he was unable to
provide financial support for his minor son from birth up to over three years
when he took the boy from his in-laws without permission, should not be
sufficient reason to strip him of his permanent right to the child's custody.
While petitioner's previous inattention is inexcusable and merits only the severest
criticism, it cannot be construed as abandonment. His appeal of the unfavorable
decision against him and his efforts to keep his only child in his custody may be
regarded as serious efforts to rectify his past misdeeds. To award him custody
would help enhance the bond between parent and son. It would also give the
father a chance to prove his love for his son and for the son to experience the
warmth and support which a father can give.
His being a soldier is likewise no bar to allowing him custody over the boy. So many
men in uniform who are assigned to different parts of the country in the service of the
nation, are still the natural guardians of their children. It is not just to deprive our
soldiers of authority, care and custody over their children merely because of the
normal consequences of their duties and assignments, such as temporary separation
from their families.
Petitioner's employment of trickery in spiriting away his boy from his in-laws,
though unjustifiable, is likewise not a ground to wrest custody from him.
Private respondents' attachment to the young boy whom they have reared for the past
three years is understandable. Still and all, the law considers the natural love of a
parent to outweigh that of the grandparents, such that only when the parent
present is shown to be unfit or unsuitable may the grandparents exercise
substitute parental authority, a fact which has not been proven here.
The strong bonds of love and affection possessed by private respondents as
grandparents should not be seen as incompatible with petitioner' right to custody over
the child as a father. Moreover, who is to say whether the petitioner's financial
standing may improve in the future?
20

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The decision of the respondent Court of
Appeals dated April 30, 1992 as well as its Resolution dated November 13, 1992 are
hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Custody over the minor Leouel Santos Jr. is
awarded to his legitimate father, herein petitioner Leouel Santos, Sr.
SO ORDERED.

21

SECOND DIVISION
[G.R. No. 118870. March 29, 1996]
NERISSA Z. PEREZ, petitioner, vs. THE COURT OF APPEALS (Ninth Division)
and RAY C. PEREZ, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
ROMERO, J .:
Parties herein would have this Court duplicate the feat of King Solomon who
was hailed in Biblical times for his sagacious, if, at times unorthodox, manner of
resolving conflicts, the most celebrated case being that when his authority was
invoked to determine the identity of the real mother as between two women claiming
the same infant. Since there could only be one mother, the daunting task that
confronted the king/judge was to choose the true one.
In the instant case, we are faced with the challenge of deciding, as between
father and mother, who should have rightful custody of a child who bears in his
person both their genes.
While there is a provision of law squarely in point, the two courts whose
authority have been invoked to render a decision have arrived at diametrically
opposite conclusions.
It has fallen upon us now to likewise act as judge between the trial court, on the
one hand, and the appellate, on the other.
On the issue of custody over the minor Ray Perez II, respondent Court of
Appeals ruled in favor of the boys father Ray C. Perez, reversing the trial courts
decision to grant custody to Nerissa Z. Perez, the childs mother.
Ray Perez, private respondent, is a doctor of medicine practicing in Cebu while
Nerissa, his wife who is petitioner herein, is a registered nurse. They were married
in Cebu on December 6, 1986. After six miscarriages, two operations and a high-risk
pregnancy, petitioner finally gave birth to Ray Perez II inNew York on July 20, 1992.
Petitioner who began working in the United States in October 1988, used part of
her earnings to build a modest house in Mandaue City, Cebu. She also sought
medical attention for her successive miscarriages in New York. She became a
resident alien in February 1992.
Private respondent stayed with her in the U.S. twice and took care of her when
she became pregnant. Unlike his wife, however, he had only a tourist visa and was
not employed.
On January 17, 1993, the couple and their baby arrived in Cebu. After a few
weeks, only Nerissa returned to the U.S. She alleged that they came home only for a
five-week vacation and that they all had round-trip tickets. However, her husband
stayed behind to take care of his sick mother and promised to follow her with the
baby. According to Ray, they had agreed to reside permanently in the Philippines but
once Nerissa was in New York, she changed her mind and continued working. She
was supposed to come back immediately after winding up her affairs there.
When Nerissa came home a few days before Ray IIs first birthday, the couple
was no longer on good terms. That their love for each other was fading became
apparent from their serious quarrels. Petitioner did not want to live near her in-laws
and rely solely on her husbands meager income of P5,000.00.
1
She longed to be with
her only child but he was being kept away from her by her husband. Thus, she did
not want to leave RJ (Ray Junior) with her husband and in-laws. She wished for her
son to grow up with his mother.
On the other hand, Ray wanted to stay here, where he could raise his son even
as he practiced his profession. He maintained that it would not be difficult to live here
since they have their own home and a car. They could live comfortably on his P
15,000.00 monthly income
2
as they were not burdened with having to pay any debts.
Petitioner was forced to move to her parents home on Guizo Street in
Mandaue. Despite mediation by the priest who solemnized their marriage, the couple
failed to reconcile.
On July 26, 1993, Nerissa Z. Perez filed a petition for habeas corpus
3
asking
respondent Ray C. Perez to surrender the custody of their son, Ray Z. Perez II, to
her.
On August 27, 1993, the court a quo issued an Order awarding custody of the
one-year old child to his mother, Nerissa Perez, citing the second paragraph of Article
213 of the Family Code which provides that no child under seven years of age shall
be separated from the mother, unless the court finds compelling reasons to order
otherwise. The dispositive portion of the Order reads:
WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, Order is hereby issued ordering the
respondent to turn over the custody of their child Ray Cortes Perez II, his passport and
roundtrip ticket to herein petitioner with a warning that if he will escape together with the
child for the purpose of hiding the minor child instead of complying with this Order, that
warrant for his arrest will be issued.
SO ORDERED.
4

Upon appeal by Ray Perez, the Court of Appeals, on September 27, 1994,
reversed the trial courts order and awarded custody of the boy to his father.
5

Petitioners motion for reconsideration having been denied,
6
she filed the instant
petition for review where the sole issue is the custody of Ray Perez II, now three
years old.
Respondent court differed in opinion from the trial court and ruled that there
were enough reasons to deny Nerissa Perez custody over Ray II even if the child is
under seven years old. It held that granting custody to the boys father would be for
the childs best interest and welfare.
7

22

Before us is the unedifying situation of a husband and wife in marital discord,
struggling for custody of their only child. It is sad that petitioner and private
respondent have not found it in their hearts to understand each other and live
together once again as a family. Separated in fact, they now seek the Courts
assistance in the matter of custody or parental authority over the child.
The wisdom and necessity for the exercise of joint parental authority need not
be belabored. The father and the mother complement each other in giving
nurture and providing that holistic care which takes into account the physical,
emotional, psychological, mental, social and spiritual needs of the child. By
precept and example, they mold his character during his crucial formative years.
However, the Courts intervention is sought in order that a decision may be
made as to which parent shall be given custody over the young boy. The Courts duty
is to determine whether Ray Perez II will be better off with petitioner or with private
respondent. We are not called upon to declare which party committed the greater
fault in their domestic quarrel.
When the parents of the child are separated, Article 213 of the Family Code is
the applicable law. It provides:
ART. 213. In case of separation of the parents, parental authority shall be exercised by the
parent designated by the Court. The Court shall take into account all relevant considerations,
especially the choice of the child over seven years of age, unless the parent chosen is unfit.
No child under seven years of age shall be separated from the mother, unless the court finds
compelling reasons to order otherwise. (Italics supplied)
Since the Code does not qualify the word separation to mean legal
separation decreed by a court, couples who are separated in fact, such as petitioner
and private respondent, are covered within its terms.
8

The Revised Rules of Court also contains a similar provision. Rule 99, Section 6
(Adoption and Custody of Minors) provides:
SEC. 6. Proceedings as to child whose parents are separated. Appeal. - When husband and
wife are divorced or living separately and apart from each other, and the questions as to the
care, custody, and control of a child or children of their marriage is brought before a Court of
First Instance by petition or as an incident to any other proceeding, the court, upon hearing the
testimony as may be pertinent, shall award the care, custody, and control of each such child as
will be for its best interest, permitting the child to choose which parent it prefers to live with if
it be over ten years of age, unless the parent chosen be unfit to take charge of the child by
reason of moral depravity, habitual drunkenness, incapacity, or poverty x x x. No child under
seven years of age shall be separated from its mother, unless the court finds there are
compelling reasons therefor. (Italics supplied)
The provisions of law quoted above clearly mandate that a child under seven
years of age shall not be separated from his mother unless the court finds
compelling reasons to order otherwise. The use of the word shall in Article
213 of the Family Code and Rule 99, Section 6 of the Revised Rules of Court
connotes a mandatory character. In the case of Lacson v. San Jose-Lacson,
9
the
Court declared:
The use of the word shall in Article 363
10
of the Civil Code, coupled with the observations
made by the Code Commission in respect to the said legal provision, underscores its
mandatory character. It prohibits in no uncertain terms the separation of a mother and her
child below seven years, unless such separation is grounded upon compelling reasons as
determined by a court.
11

The rationale for awarding the custody of children younger than seven years of
age to their mother was explained by the Code Commission:
The general rule is recommended in order to avoid many a tragedy where a mother has seen
her baby torn away from her. No man can sound the deep sorrows of a mother who is
deprived of her child of tender age. The exception allowed by the rule has to be for
compelling reasons for the good of the child; those cases must indeed be rare, if the mothers
heart is not to be unduly hurt. If she has erred, as in cases of adultery, the penalty of
imprisonment and the divorce decree (relative divorce) will ordinarily be sufficient
punishment for her. Moreover, moral dereliction will not have any effect upon the baby who
is as yet unable to understand her situation. (Report of the Code Commission, p. 12)
12

The Family Code, in reverting to the provision of the Civil Code that a child
below seven years old should not be separated from the mother (Article 363), has
expressly repealed the earlier Article 17, paragraph three of the Child and Youth
Welfare Code (Presidential Decree No. 603) which reduced the childs age to five
years.
13

The general rule that a child under seven years of age shall not be
separated from his mother finds its raison detre in the basic need of a child for
his mothers loving care.
14
Only the most compelling of reasons shall justify the
courts awarding the custody of such a child to someone other than his mother,
such as her unfitness to exercise sole parental authority. In the past the following
grounds have been considered ample justification to deprive a mother of custody and
parental authority: neglect, abandonment,
15
unemployment and immorality,
16
habitual
drunkenness,
17
drug addiction, maltreatment of the child, insanity and being sick with
a communicable disease.
18

It has long been settled that in custody cases,
19
the foremost
consideration is always the Welfare and best interest of the child. In fact, no less
than an international instrument, the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides:
In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social
welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the
best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
20

Courts invariably look into all relevant factors presented by the contending
parents, such as their material resources, social and moral situations.
21

In the case at bench, financial capacity is not a determinative factor inasmuch
as both parties have demonstrated that they have ample means.
Respondent court stated that petitioner has no permanent place of work in
the U.S.A. and has taken this point against her. The records, however, show that she
23

is employed in a New York hospital
22
and was, at the time the petition was filed, still
abroad.
23
She testified that she intends to apply for a job elsewhere, presumably to
improve her work environment and augment her income, as well as for
convenience.
24
The Court takes judicial notice of the fact that a registered nurse, such
as petitioner, is still very much in demand in the United States. Unlike private
respondent, a doctor who by his own admission could not find employment there,
petitioner immediately got a job in New York. Considering her skill and experience,
petitioner should find no difficulty in obtaining work elsewhere, should she desire to
do so.
The decision under review casts doubt on petitioners capability to take care of
the child, particularly since she works on twelve-hour shifts thrice weekly, at times,
even at night. There being no one to help her look after the child, it is alleged that
she cannot properly attend to him. This conclusion is as unwarranted as it is
unreasonable. First, her present work schedule is not so unmanageable as to
deprive her of quality time for Ray II. Quite a number of working mothers who are
away from home for longer periods of time are still able to raise a family well, applying
time management principles judiciously. Second, many a mother, finding herself in
such a position, has invited her own mother or relative to join her abroad, providing
the latter with plane tickets and liberal allowances, to look after the child until he is
able to take care of himself. Others go on leave from work until such time as the child
can be entrusted to day-care centers. Delegating child care temporarily to qualified
persons who run day-care centers does not detract from being a good mother, as
long as the latter exercises supervision, for even in our culture, children are often
brought up by housemaids or yayas under the eagle eyes of the mother. Third,
private respondents work schedule was not presented in evidence at the
trial. Although he is a general practitioner, the records merely show that he maintains
a clinic, works for several companies on retainer basis and teaches part-
time.
25
Hence, respondent courts conclusion that his work schedule is flexible (and
h)e can always find time for his son
26
is not well-founded. Fourth, the fact that
private respondent lives near his parents and sister is not crucial in this case. Fifth,
petitioners work schedule cited in the respondent courts decision is not necessarily
permanent. Hospitals work in shifts and, given a mothers instinctive desire to lavish
upon her child the utmost care, petitioner may be expected to arrange her schedule in
such a way as to allocate time for him. Finally, it does not follow that petitioner values
her career more than her family simply because she wants to work in the United
States. There are any number of reasons for a persons seeking a job outside the
country, e.g. to augment her income for the familys benefit and welfare, and for
psychological fulfillment, to name a few. In the instant case, it has been shown that
petitioner earned enough from her job to be able to construct a house for the family
in Mandaue City. The record describes sketchily the relations between Ray and
Nerissa Perez. The transcripts of the three hearings are inadequate to show that
petitioner did not exert earnest efforts and make sacrifices to save her marriage.
It is not difficult to imagine how heart-rending it is for a mother whose attempts
at having a baby were frustrated several times over a period of six years to finally
bear one, only for the infant to be snatched from her before he has even reached his
first year. The mothers role in the life of her child, such as Ray II, is well-nigh
irreplaceable. In prose and poetry, the depth of a mothers love has been
immortalized times without number, finding as it does, its justification, not in
fantasy but in reality.
WHEREFORE, the petition for review is GRANTED. The decision of the Court
of Appeals dated September 27, 1994 as well as its Resolution datedJanuary 24,
1995 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Order of the trial court
dated August 27, 1993 is hereby REINSTATED. Custody over the minor Ray Z.
Perez II is awarded to his mother, herein petitioner Nerissa Z. Perez. This decision is
immediately executory.
SO ORDERED.

24

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 132223. June 19, 2001.]

BONIFACIA P. VANCIL, Petitioner, v. HELEN G.
BELMES, Respondent.

D E C I S I O N


SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:


Petition for review on certiorari of the Decision of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. CV No. 45650, "In the Matter of Guardianship of Minors Valerie
Vancil and Vincent Vancil Bonifacia P. Vancil, Petitioner-Appellee, v.
Helen G. Belmes, Oppositor-Appellant," promulgated on July 29, 1997, and
its Resolution dated December 18, 1997 denying the motion for
reconsideration of the said Decision.

The facts of the case as summarized by the Court of Appeals in its
Decision are:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Petitioner, Bonifacia Vancil, is the mother of Reeder C. Vancil, a Navy
serviceman of the United States of America who died in the said country
on December 22, 1986. During his lifetime, Reeder had two (2) children
named Valerie and Vincent by his common-law wife, Helen G. Belmes.

"Sometime in May of 1987, Bonifacia Vancil commenced before the
Regional Trial Court of Cebu City a guardianship proceedings over the
persons and properties of minors Valerie and Vincent docketed as Special
Proceedings No. 1618-CEB. At the time, Valerie was only 6 years old while
Vincent was a 2-year old child. It is claimed in the petition that the minors
are residents of Cebu City, Philippines and have an estate consisting of
proceeds from their fathers death pension benefits with a probable value
of P100,000.00.

"Finding sufficiency in form and in substance, the case was set for hearing
after a 3-consecutive-weekly publications with the Sunstar Daily.

"On July 15, 1987, Petitioner, Bonifacia Vancil was appointed legal and
judicial guardian over the persons and estate of Valerie Vancil and Vincent
Vancil Jr.

"On August 13, 1987, the natural mother of the minors, Helen Belmes,
submitted an opposition to the subject guardianship proceedings
asseverating that she had already filed a similar petition for guardianship
under Special Proceedings No. 2819 before the Regional Trial Court of
Pagadian City.

"Thereafter, on June 27, 1988, Helen Belmes followed her opposition with
a motion for the Removal of Guardian and Appointment of a New One,
asserting that she is the natural mother in actual custody of and exercising
parental authority over the subject minors at Maralag, Dumingag,
Zamboanga del Sur where they are permanently residing; that the petition
was filed under an improper venue; and that at the time the petition was
filed Bonifacia Vancil was a resident of 140 Hurliman Court, Canon City,
Colorado, U.S.A. being a naturalized American citizen.

"On October 12, 1988, after due proceedings, the trial court rejected and
denied Belmes motion to remove and/or to disqualify Bonifacia as
guardian of Valerie and Vincent Jr. and instead ordered petitioner Bonifacia
Vancil to enter the office and perform her duties as such guardian upon
the posting of a bond of P50,000.00. The subsequent attempt for a
reconsideration was likewise dismissed in an Order dated November 24,
1988." 1

On appeal, the Court of Appeals rendered its assailed Decision reversing
the RTC order of October 12, 1988 and dismissing Special Proceedings No.
1618-CEB.

The Court of Appeals held:

"Stress should likewise be made that our Civil Code considers parents, the
father, or in the absence, the mother, as natural guardian of her minor
children. The law on parental authority under the Civil Code or P.D. 603
and now the New Family Code, (Article 225 of the Family Code) ascribe to
the same legal pronouncements. Section 7 of Rule 93 of the Revised Rules
of Court confirms the designation of the parents as ipso facto guardian of
their minor children without need of a court appointment and only for good
reason may another person be named. Ironically, for the petitioner, there
is nothing on record of any reason at all why Helen Belmes, the biological
mother, should be deprived of her legal rights as natural guardian of her
minor children. To give away such privilege from Helen would be an
abdication and grave violation of the very basic fundamental tenets in civil
law and the constitution on family solidarity." 2

On March 10, 1998, Bonifacia Vancil filed with this Court the present
petition, raising the following "legal points" :

"1. The Court of Appeals gravely erred in ruling that the preferential right
of a parent to be appointed guardian over the persons and estate of the
minors is absolute, contrary to existing jurisprudence.

"2. The Court of Appeals gravely erred in ruling that Oppositor Helen G.
Belmes, the biological mother, should be appointed the guardian of the
minors despite the undisputed proof that under her custody, her daughter
minor Valerie Vancil was raped seven times by Oppositors live-in partner.
25


"3. The respondent (sic) Court of Appeals gravely erred when it
disqualified petitioner Bonifacia P. Vancil to be appointed as judicial
guardian over the persons and estate of subject minors despite the fact
that she has all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications as
judicial guardian, merely on the basis of her U.S. citizenship which is
clearly not a statutory requirement to become guardian."

At the outset, let it be stressed that in her "Manifestation/Motion," dated
September 15, 1998, respondent Helen Belmes stated that her daughter
Valerie turned eighteen on September 2, 1998 as shown by her Birth
Certificate. 3 Respondent thus prayed that this case be dismissed with
respect to Valerie, she being no longer a proper subject of guardianship
proceedings. The said "Manifestation/Motion" was noted by this Court in its
Resolution dated November 11, 1998.

Considering that Valerie is already of major age, this petition has
become moot with respect to her. Thus, only the first and third "legal
points" raised by petitioner should be resolved.

The basic issue for our resolution is who between the mother and
grandmother of minor Vincent should be his guardian.

We agree with the ruling of the Court of Appeals that respondent, being
the natural mother of the minor, has the preferential right over
that of petitioner to be his guardian. This ruling finds support in Article
211 of the Family Code which provides:

"ARTICLE 211. The father and the mother shall jointly exercise parental
authority over the persons of their common children. In case of
disagreement, the fathers decision shall prevail, unless there is a judicial
order to the contrary. . . ."

Indeed, being the natural mother of minor Vincent, respondent has
the corresponding natural and legal right to his custody. In Sagala
Eslao v. Court of Appeals, 4 this Court held:

"Of considerable importance is the rule long accepted by the courts that
the right of parents to the custody of their minor children is one of
the natural rights incident to parenthood, a right supported by law
and sound public policy. The right is an inherent one, which is not
created by the state or decisions of the courts, but derives from
the nature of the parental relationship."

Petitioner contends that she is more qualified as guardian of Vincent.

Petitioners claim to be the guardian of said minor can only be
realized by way of substitute parental authority pursuant to Article
214 of the Family Code, thus:

"ARTICLE 214. In case of death, absence or unsuitability of the
parents, substitute parental authority shall be exercised by the surviving
grandparent. . . ."

In Santos, Sr. v. Court of Appeals, 5 this Court ruled:
"The law vests on the father and mother joint parental authority
over the persons of their common children. In case of absence or
death of either parent, the parent present shall continue exercising
parental authority. Only in case of the parents death, absence or
unsuitability may substitute parental authority be exercised by the
surviving grandparent."

Petitioner, as the surviving grandparent, can exercise substitute parental
authority only in case of death, absence or unsuitability of Respondent.
Considering that respondent is very much alive and has exercised
continuously parental authority over Vincent, petitioner has to prove, in
asserting her right to be the minors guardian, respondents unsuitability.
Petitioner, however, has not proffered convincing evidence showing that
respondent is not suited to be the guardian of Vincent. Petitioner merely
insists that respondent is morally unfit as guardian of Valerie considering
that her (respondents) live-in partner raped Valerie several times. But
Valerie, being now of major age, is no longer a subject of this guardianship
proceeding.

Even assuming that respondent is unfit as guardian of minor Vincent, still
petitioner cannot qualify as a substitute guardian. It bears
stressing that she is an American citizen and a resident of
Colorado. Obviously, she will not be able to perform the
responsibilities and obligations required of a guardian. In fact, in
her petition, she admitted the difficulty of discharging the duties of a
guardian by an expatriate, like her. To be sure, she will merely delegate
those duties to someone else who may not also qualify as a guardian.

Moreover, we observe that respondents allegation that petitioner has
not set foot in the Philippines since 1987 has not been controverted by
her. Besides, petitioners old age and her conviction of libel by the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 6, Cebu City in Criminal Case No. CBU-
16884 6 filed by one Danilo R. Deen, will give her a second thought of
staying here. Indeed, her coming back to this country just to fulfill
the duties of a guardian to Vincent for only two years is not
certain.

Significantly, this Court has held that courts should not appoint
persons as guardians who are not within the jurisdiction of our
courts for they will find it difficult to protect the wards. In Guerrero
v. Teran, 7 this Court held:

"Doa Maria Muoz y Gomez was, as above indicated, removed upon the
26

theory that her appointment was void because she did not reside in the
Philippine Islands. There is nothing in the law which requires the courts to
appoint residents only as administrators or guardians. However,
notwithstanding the fact that there are no statutory requirements upon
this question, the courts, charged with the responsibilities of protecting the
estates of deceased persons, wards of the estate, etc., will find much
difficulty in complying with this duty by appointing administrators and
guardians who are not personally subject to their jurisdiction.
Notwithstanding that there is no statutory requirement, the courts should
not consent to the appointment of persons as administrators and
guardians who are not personally subject to the jurisdiction of our courts
here."

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision is hereby AFFIRMED, with modification
in the sense that Valerie, who has attained the age of majority, will no
longer be under the guardianship of respondent Helen Belmes.

Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.

27

FIRST DIVISION
[G.R. No. 143363. February 6, 2002]
ST. MARYS ACADEMY, petitioner, vs. WILLIAM CARPITANOS and LUCIA S.
CARPITANOS, GUADA DANIEL, JAMES DANIEL II, JAMES DANIEL,
SR., and VIVENCIO VILLANUEVA, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
PARDO, J .:
The Case
The case is an appeal via certiorari from the decision
[1]
of the Court of Appeals
as well as the resolution denying reconsideration, holding petitioner liable for
damages arising from an accident that resulted in the death of a student who had
joined a campaign to visit the public schools in Dipolog City to solicit enrollment.
The Facts
The facts, as found by the Court of Appeals, are as follows:
Claiming damages for the death of their only son, Sherwin Carpitanos, spouses William
Carpitanos and Lucia Carpitanos filed on June 9, 1995 a case against James Daniel II and his
parents, James Daniel Sr. and Guada Daniel, the vehicle owner, Vivencio Villanueva and St.
Marys Academy before the Regional Trial Court of Dipolog City.
On 20 February 1997, Branch 6 of the Regional Trial Court of Dipolog City rendered its
decision the dispositive portion of which reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, judgment is hereby rendered in the following
manner:
1. Defendant St. Marys Academy of Dipolog City, is hereby ordered to pay plaintiffs
William Carpitanos and Luisa Carpitanos, the following sums of money:
a. FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) indemnity for the
loss of life of Sherwin S. Carpitanos;
b. FORTY THOUSAND PESOS (P40,000.00) actual
damages incurred by plaintiffs for burial and related
expenses;
c. TEN THOUSAND PESOS (P10,000.00) for attorneys fees;
d. FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P500,000.00) for
moral damages; and to pay costs.
2. Their liability being only subsidiary, defendants James Daniel, Sr. and Guada Daniel
are hereby ordered to pay herein plaintiffs the amount of damages above-stated in the event of
insolvency of principal obligor St. Marys Academy of Dipolog City;
3. Defendant James Daniel II, being a minor at the time of the commission of the tort
and who was under special parental authority of defendant St. Marys Academy, is
ABSOLVED from paying the above-stated damages, same being adjudged against defendants
St. Marys Academy, and subsidiarily, against his parents;
4. Defendant Vivencio Villanueva is hereby ABSOLVED of any liability. His
counterclaim not being in order as earlier discussed in this decision, is hereby DISMISSED.
IT IS SO ORDERED. (Decision, pp. 32-33; Records, pp. 205-206).
From the records it appears that from 13 to 20 February 1995, defendant-appellant St. Marys
Academy of Dipolog City conducted an enrollment drive for the school year 1995-1996. A
facet of the enrollment campaign was the visitation of schools from where prospective
enrollees were studying. As a student of St. Marys Academy, Sherwin Carpitanos was part of
the campaigning group. Accordingly, on the fateful day, Sherwin, along with other high
school students were riding in a Mitsubishi jeep owned by defendant Vivencio Villanueva on
their way to Larayan Elementary School, Larayan, Dapitan City. The jeep was driven by
James Daniel II then 15 years old and a student of the same school. Allegedly, the latter drove
the jeep in a reckless manner and as a result the jeep turned turtle.
Sherwin Carpitanos died as a result of the injuries he sustained from the accident.
[2]

In due time, petitioner St. Marys academy appealed the decision to the Court of
Appeals.
[3]

On February 29, 2000, the Court of Appeals promulgated a decision reducing
the actual damages to P25,000.00 but otherwise affirming the decision a quo, in
toto.
[4]

On February 29, 2000, petitioner St. Marys Academy filed a motion for
reconsideration of the decision. However, on May 22, 2000, the Court of Appeals
denied the motion.
[5]

Hence, this appeal.
[6]

The Issues
28

1) Whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding the petitioner liable
for damages for the death of Sherwin Carpitanos.
2) Whether the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the award of moral
damages against the petitioner.
The Courts Ruling
We reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals held petitioner St. Marys Academy liable for the death of
Sherwin Carpitanos under Articles 218
[7]
and 219
[8]
of the Family Code, pointing out
that petitioner was negligent in allowing a minor to drive and in not having a teacher
accompany the minor students in the jeep.
Under Article 218 of the Family Code, the following shall have special parental
authority over a minor child while under their supervision, instruction or
custody: (1) the school, its administrators and teachers; or (2) the individual,
entity or institution engaged in child care. This special parental authority and
responsibility applies to all authorized activities, whether inside or outside the
premises of the school, entity or institution. Thus, such authority and
responsibility applies to field trips, excursions and other affairs of the pupils and
students outside the school premises whenever authorized by the school or its
teachers.
[9]

Under Article 219 of the Family Code, if the person under custody is a minor,
those exercising special parental authority are principally and solidarily liable for
damages caused by the acts or omissions of the unemancipated minor while under
their supervision, instruction, or custody.
[10]

However, for petitioner to be liable, there must be a finding that the act or
omission considered as negligent was the proximate cause of the injury caused
because the negligence must have a causal connection to the accident.
[11]

In order that there may be a recovery for an injury, however, it must be shown that the
injury for which recovery is sought must be the legitimate consequence of the wrong
done; the connection between the negligence and the injury must be a direct and natural
sequence of events, unbroken by intervening efficient causes. In other words, the
negligence must be the proximate cause of the injury. For, negligence, no matter in what
it consists, cannot create a right of action unless it is the proximate cause of the injury
complained of. And the proximate cause of an injury is that cause, which, in natural
and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the
injury, and without which the result would not have occurred.
[12]

In this case, the respondents failed to show that the negligence of
petitioner was the proximate cause of the death of the victim.
Respondents Daniel spouses and Villanueva admitted that the immediate
cause of the accident was not the negligence of petitioner or the reckless driving of
James Daniel II, but the detachment of the steering wheel guide of the jeep.
In their comment to the petition, respondents Daniel spouses and Villanueva
admitted the documentary exhibits establishing that the cause of the accident was the
detachment of the steering wheel guide of the jeep. Hence, the cause of the
accident was not the recklessness of James Daniel II but the mechanical defect
in the jeep of Vivencio Villanueva. Respondents, including the spouses
Carpitanos, parents of the deceased Sherwin Carpitanos, did not dispute the report
and testimony of the traffic investigator who stated that the cause of the accident was
the detachment of the steering wheel guide that caused the jeep to turn turtle.
Significantly, respondents did not present any evidence to show that the
proximate cause of the accident was the negligence of the school authorities, or the
reckless driving of James Daniel II. Hence, the respondents reliance on Article 219
of the Family Code that those given the authority and responsibility under the
preceding Article shall be principally and solidarily liable for damages caused by acts
or omissions of the unemancipated minor was unfounded.
Further, there was no evidence that petitioner school allowed the minor James
Daniel II to drive the jeep of respondent Vivencio Villanueva. It was Ched Villanueva,
grandson of respondent Vivencio Villanueva, who had possession and control of the
jeep. He was driving the vehicle and he allowed James Daniel II, a minor, to drive the
jeep at the time of the accident.
Hence, liability for the accident, whether caused by the negligence of the minor
driver or mechanical detachment of the steering wheel guide of the jeep, must be
pinned on the minors parents primarily. The negligence of petitioner St. Marys
Academy was only a remote cause of the accident. Between the remote cause and
the injury, there intervened the negligence of the minors parents or the detachment of
the steering wheel guide of the jeep.
The proximate cause of an injury is that cause, which, in natural and continuous sequence,
unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury, and without which the result
would not have occurred.
[13]

Considering that the negligence of the minor driver or the detachment of
the steering wheel guide of the jeep owned by respondent Villanueva was an
event over which petitioner St. Marys Academy had no control, and which was
the proximate cause of the accident, petitioner may not be held liable for the
death resulting from such accident.
Consequently, we find that petitioner likewise cannot be held liable for moral
damages in the amount of P500,000.00 awarded by the trial court and affirmed by the
Court of Appeals.
Though incapable of pecuniary computation, moral damages may be recovered
if they are the proximate result of the defendants wrongful act or omission.
[14]
In this
case, the proximate cause of the accident was not attributable to petitioner.
For the reason that petitioner was not directly liable for the accident, the
decision of the Court of Appeals ordering petitioner to pay death indemnity to
respondent Carpitanos must be deleted. Moreover, the grant of attorneys fees as
part of damages is the exception rather than the rule.
[15]
The power of the court to
award attorneys fees under Article 2208 of the Civil Code demands factual, legal and
29

equitable justification.
[16]
Thus, the grant of attorneys fees against the petitioner is
likewise deleted.
Incidentally, there was no question that the registered owner of the vehicle was
respondent Villanueva. He never denied and in fact admitted this fact. We have held
that the registered owner of any vehicle, even if not used for public service, would
primarily be responsible to the public or to third persons for injuries caused the latter
while the vehicle was being driven on the highways or streets.
[17]
Hence, with the
overwhelming evidence presented by petitioner and the respondent Daniel spouses
that the accident occurred because of the detachment of the steering wheel guide
of the jeep, it is not the school, but the registered owner of the vehicle who
shall be held responsible for damages for the death of Sherwin Carpitanos.
The Fallo
WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the decision of the
Court of Appeals
[18]
and that of the trial court.
[19]
The Court remands the case to the
trial court for determination of the liability of defendants, excluding petitioner St.
Marys Academy, Dipolog City.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.

30

G.R. No. L-11658 February 15, 1918
LEUNG YEE, plaintiff-appellant,
vs.
FRANK L. STRONG MACHINERY COMPANY and J. G.
WILLIAMSON, defendants-appellees.
The "Compaia Agricola Filipina" bought a considerable quantity of rice-cleaning
machinery company from the defendant machinery company, and executed a
chattel mortgage thereon to secure payment of the purchase price. It included in the
mortgage deed the building of strong materials in which the machinery was installed,
without any reference to the land on which it stood. The indebtedness secured by this
instrument not having been paid when it fell due, the mortgaged property was sold by
the sheriff, in pursuance of the terms of the mortgage instrument, and was bought in
by the machinery company. The mortgage was registered in the chattel mortgage
registry, and the sale of the property to the machinery company in satisfaction of the
mortgage was annotated in the same registry on December 29, 1913.
A few weeks thereafter, on or about the 14th of January, 1914, the "Compaia
Agricola Filipina" executed a deed of sale of the land upon which the building stood to
the machinery company, but this deed of sale, although executed in a public
document, was not registered. This deed makes no reference to the building erected
on the land and would appear to have been executed for the purpose of curing any
defects which might be found to exist in the machinery company's title to the building
under the sheriff's certificate of sale. The machinery company went into possession of
the building at or about the time when this sale took place, that is to say, the month of
December, 1913, and it has continued in possession ever since.
At or about the time when the chattel mortgage was executed in favor of the
machinery company, the mortgagor, the "Compaia Agricola Filipina" executed
another mortgage to the plaintiff upon the building, separate and apart from the land
on which it stood, to secure payment of the balance of its indebtedness to the plaintiff
under a contract for the construction of the building. Upon the failure of the mortgagor
to pay the amount of the indebtedness secured by the mortgage, the plaintiff secured
judgment for that amount, levied execution upon the building, bought it in at the
sheriff's sale on or about the 18th of December, 1914, and had the sheriff's certificate
of the sale duly registered in the land registry of the Province of Cavite.
At the time when the execution was levied upon the building, the defendant
machinery company, which was in possession, filed with the sheriff a sworn
statement setting up its claim of title and demanding the release of the property from
the levy. Thereafter, upon demand of the sheriff, the plaintiff executed an indemnity
bond in favor of the sheriff in the sum of P12,000, in reliance upon which the sheriff
sold the property at public auction to the plaintiff, who was the highest bidder at the
sheriff's sale.
This action was instituted by the plaintiff to recover possession of the building from
the machinery company.
The trial judge, relying upon the terms of article 1473 of the Civil Code, gave
judgment in favor of the machinery company, on the ground that the company had its
title to the building registered prior to the date of registry of the plaintiff's certificate.
Article 1473 of the Civil Code is as follows:
If the same thing should have been sold to different vendees, the ownership
shall be transfer to the person who may have the first taken possession
thereof in good faith, if it should be personal property.
Should it be real property, it shall belong to the person acquiring it who first
recorded it in the registry.
Should there be no entry, the property shall belong to the person who first
took possession of it in good faith, and, in the absence thereof, to the person
who presents the oldest title, provided there is good faith.
The registry her referred to is of course the registry of real property, and it must be
apparent that the annotation or inscription of a deed of sale of real property in a
chattel mortgage registry cannot be given the legal effect of an inscription in the
registry of real property. By its express terms, the Chattel Mortgage Law
contemplates and makes provision for mortgages of personal property; and the sole
purpose and object of the chattel mortgage registry is to provide for the registry of
"Chattel mortgages," that is to say, mortgages of personal property executed in the
manner and form prescribed in the statute. The building of strong materials in which
the rice-cleaning machinery was installed by the "Compaia Agricola Filipina" was
real property, and the mere fact that the parties seem to have dealt with it separate
and apart from the land on which it stood in no wise changed its character as real
property. It follows that neither the original registry in the chattel mortgage of the
building and the machinery installed therein, not the annotation in that registry of the
sale of the mortgaged property, had any effect whatever so far as the building was
concerned.
We conclude that the ruling in favor of the machinery company cannot be sustained
on the ground assigned by the trial judge. We are of opinion, however, that the
judgment must be sustained on the ground that the agreed statement of facts in the
court below discloses that neither the purchase of the building by the plaintiff nor his
inscription of the sheriff's certificate of sale in his favor was made in good faith, and
that the machinery company must be held to be the owner of the property under the
third paragraph of the above cited article of the code, it appearing that the company
first took possession of the property; and further, that the building and the land were
sold to the machinery company long prior to the date of the sheriff's sale to the
plaintiff.
It has been suggested that since the provisions of article 1473 of the Civil Code
require "good faith," in express terms, in relation to "possession" and "title," but
contain no express requirement as to "good faith" in relation to the "inscription" of the
property on the registry, it must be presumed that good faith is not an essential
requisite of registration in order that it may have the effect contemplated in this article.
31

We cannot agree with this contention. It could not have been the intention of the
legislator to base the preferential right secured under this article of the code upon an
inscription of title in bad faith. Such an interpretation placed upon the language of this
section would open wide the door to fraud and collusion. The public records cannot
be converted into instruments of fraud and oppression by one who secures an
inscription therein in bad faith. The force and effect given by law to an inscription in a
public record presupposes the good faith of him who enters such inscription; and
rights created by statute, which are predicated upon an inscription in a public registry,
do not and cannot accrue under an inscription "in bad faith," to the benefit of the
person who thus makes the inscription.
Construing the second paragraph of this article of the code, the supreme court of
Spain held in its sentencia of the 13th of May, 1908, that:
This rule is always to be understood on the basis of the good faith
mentioned in the first paragraph; therefore, it having been found that the
second purchasers who record their purchase had knowledge of the
previous sale, the question is to be decided in accordance with the following
paragraph. (Note 2, art. 1473, Civ. Code, Medina and Maranon [1911]
edition.)
Although article 1473, in its second paragraph, provides that the title of
conveyance of ownership of the real property that is first recorded in the
registry shall have preference, this provision must always be understood on
the basis of the good faith mentioned in the first paragraph; the legislator
could not have wished to strike it out and to sanction bad faith, just to comply
with a mere formality which, in given cases, does not obtain even in real
disputes between third persons. (Note 2, art. 1473, Civ. Code, issued by the
publishers of the La Revista de los Tribunales, 13th edition.)
The agreed statement of facts clearly discloses that the plaintiff, when he bought the
building at the sheriff's sale and inscribed his title in the land registry, was duly
notified that the machinery company had bought the building from plaintiff's judgment
debtor; that it had gone into possession long prior to the sheriff's sale; and that it was
in possession at the time when the sheriff executed his levy. The execution of an
indemnity bond by the plaintiff in favor of the sheriff, after the machinery company had
filed its sworn claim of ownership, leaves no room for doubt in this regard. Having
bought in the building at the sheriff's sale with full knowledge that at the time of the
levy and sale the building had already been sold to the machinery company by the
judgment debtor, the plaintiff cannot be said to have been a purchaser in good faith;
and of course, the subsequent inscription of the sheriff's certificate of title must be
held to have been tainted with the same defect.
Perhaps we should make it clear that in holding that the inscription of the sheriff's
certificate of sale to the plaintiff was not made in good faith, we should not be
understood as questioning, in any way, the good faith and genuineness of the
plaintiff's claim against the "Compaia Agricola Filipina." The truth is that both the
plaintiff and the defendant company appear to have had just and righteous claims
against their common debtor. No criticism can properly be made of the exercise of the
utmost diligence by the plaintiff in asserting and exercising his right to recover the
amount of his claim from the estate of the common debtor. We are strongly inclined to
believe that in procuring the levy of execution upon the factory building and in buying
it at the sheriff's sale, he considered that he was doing no more than he had a right to
do under all the circumstances, and it is highly possible and even probable that he
thought at that time that he would be able to maintain his position in a contest with the
machinery company. There was no collusion on his part with the common debtor, and
no thought of the perpetration of a fraud upon the rights of another, in the ordinary
sense of the word. He may have hoped, and doubtless he did hope, that the title of
the machinery company would not stand the test of an action in a court of law; and if
later developments had confirmed his unfounded hopes, no one could question the
legality of the propriety of the course he adopted.
But it appearing that he had full knowledge of the machinery company's claim of
ownership when he executed the indemnity bond and bought in the property at the
sheriff's sale, and it appearing further that the machinery company's claim of
ownership was well founded, he cannot be said to have been an innocent purchaser
for value. He took the risk and must stand by the consequences; and it is in this
sense that we find that he was not a purchaser in good faith.
One who purchases real estate with knowledge of a defect or lack of title in his
vendor cannot claim that he has acquired title thereto in good faith as against the true
owner of the land or of an interest therein; and the same rule must be applied to one
who has knowledge of facts which should have put him upon such inquiry and
investigation as might be necessary to acquaint him with the defects in the title of his
vendor. A purchaser cannot close his eyes to facts which should put a reasonable
man upon his guard, and then claim that he acted in good faith under the belief that
there was no defect in the title of the vendor. His mere refusal to believe that such
defect exists, or his willful closing of his eyes to the possibility of the existence of a
defect in his vendor's title, will not make him an innocent purchaser for value, if
afterwards develops that the title was in fact defective, and it appears that he had
such notice of the defects as would have led to its discovery had he acted with that
measure of precaution which may reasonably be acquired of a prudent man in a like
situation. Good faith, or lack of it, is in its analysis a question of intention; but in
ascertaining the intention by which one is actuated on a given occasion, we are
necessarily controlled by the evidence as to the conduct and outward acts by which
alone the inward motive may, with safety, be determined. So it is that "the honesty of
intention," "the honest lawful intent," which constitutes good faith implies a "freedom
from knowledge and circumstances which ought to put a person on inquiry," and so it
is that proof of such knowledge overcomes the presumption of good faith in which the
courts always indulge in the absence of proof to the contrary. "Good faith, or the want
of it, is not a visible, tangible fact that can be seen or touched, but rather a state or
condition of mind which can only be judged of by actual or fancied tokens or signs."
(Wilder vs. Gilman, 55 Vt., 504, 505; Cf. Cardenas Lumber Co. vs. Shadel, 52 La.
Ann., 2094-2098; Pinkerton Bros. Co. vs. Bromley, 119 Mich., 8, 10, 17.)
We conclude that upon the grounds herein set forth the disposing part of the decision
and judgment entered in the court below should be affirmed with costs of this instance
against the appellant. So ordered.

32

FIRST DIVISION
[G.R. No. 109946. February 9, 1996]
DEVELOPMENT BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. COURT OF
APPEALS, MYLO O. QUINTO and JESUSA CHRISTINE S.
CHUPUICO, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
BELLOSILLO, J .:
DEVELOPMENT BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES filed this petition for review on
certiorari assailing the decision of the Court of Appeals holding that the mortgages in
favor of the bank were void and ineffectual because when constituted the mortgagors,
who were merely applicants for free patent of the property mortgaged, were not the
owners thereof in fee simple and therefore could not validly encumber the same.
[1]

On 20 April 1978 petitioner granted a loan of P94,000.00 to the spouses
Santiago Olidiana and Oliva Olidiana. To secure the loan the Olidiana spouses
executed a real estate mortgage on several properties among which was Lot 2029
(Pls-6 1) with Tax Declaration No. 2335/1, situated ib Bo. Bago Capalaran, Molave,
Zamboanga del Sur, with an area of 84,108 square meters, more or less. At the time
of the mortgage the property was still the subject of a Free Patent application filed by
the Olidianas with the Bureau of Lands but registered under their name in the Office
of the Municipal Assessor of Molave for taxation purposes.
[2]

On 2 November 1978 the Olidiana spouses filed with the Bureau of Lands
a Request for Amendment of their Free Patent applications over several parcels of
land including Lot No. 2029 (PIs-61). In this request they renounced, relinquished and
waived all their rights and interests over Lot No. 2029 (Pls-61) in favor of Jesusa
Christine Chupuico and Mylo O. Quinto, respondents herein. On 10 January
1979 Free Patent Nos. IX-5-2223 (covering one-half of Lot No. 2029 [Pls-61] and IX-
5-2224 (covering the other half of the same Lot No. 2029 [Pls-61]) were accordingly
granted respectively to respondents Jesusa Christine Chupuico and Mylo 0. Quinto
by the Bureau of Lands District Land Office No. IX-5, Pagadian City. Jesusa Christine
Chupuico later obtained Original Certificate of Title No. P-27,361 covering
aforementioned property while Mylo O. Quinto was also issued Original Certificate of
Title No. P-27,362 in view of the previous free patent.
[3]

On 20 April 1979 an additional loan of P62,000 00 was extended by petitioner to
the Olidiana spouses. Thus on 23 April 1979 the Olidianas executed an additional
mortgage on the same parcels of land already covered by the first mortgage of 4 April
1978. This second mortgage also included Lot No. 2029 (Pls-61) as security for the
Olidiana spouses financial obligation with petitioner.
[4]

Thereafter, for failure of Santiago and Oliva Olidiana to comply with the terms
and conditions of their promissory notes and mortgage contracts, petitioner
extrajudicially foreclosed all their mortgaged properties. Consequently, on 14 April
1983 these properties, including Lot No. 2029 (Pls-61) were sold at public auction for
P88,650.00 and awarded to petitioner as the highest bidder. A Certificate of Sale was
thereafter executed in favor of petitioner and an Affidavit of Consolidation of
Ownership registered in its name. However, when petitioner tried to register the sale
and the affidavit of consolidation and to have the tax declaration transferred in its
name it was discovered that Lot No. 2029 (Pls-61) had already been divided into two
(2) parcels, one-half (1/2) now known as Lot 2029-A and covered by OCT No. P-
27,361 in the name of Jesusa Christine Chupuico, while the other half known as Lot
2029-B was covered by the same OCT No. P-27,361 in the name of Mylo 0. Quinto.
[5]

In view of the discovery, petitioner filed an action for Quieting of Title and
Cancellation or Annulment of Certificate of Title against respondents. After trial the
Regional Trial Court of Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, Branch 23, rendered judgment
against petitioner.
[6]
The court ruled that the contracts of mortgage entered into by
petitioner and the subsequent foreclosure of subject property could not have vested
valid title to petitioner bank because the mortgagors were not the owners in fee
simple of the property mortgaged. The court also found the mortgages over Lot No.
2029 (Pls-61) of no legal consequence because they were executed in violation of
Art. 2085, par. 2, of the New Civil Code which requires that the mortgagor be the
absolute owner of the thing mortgaged. According to the court a quo there was no
evidence to prove that the mortgagors of the land in dispute were its absolute owners
at the time of the mortgage to petitioner.
The factual findings of the lower court disclose that when the Olidiana spouses
mortgaged Lot No. 2029 (Pls-61) to petitioner it was still the subject of a
miscellaneous sales application by the spouses with the Bureau of Lands. Since there
was no showing that the sales application was approved before the property was
mortgaged, the trial court concluded that the Olidiana spouses were not yet its
owners in fee simple when they mortgaged the property. The lower court also said
that with the subsequent issuance of the Free Patent by the Bureau of Lands in the
name of respondents Chupuico and Quinto, it could be gleaned that the property was
indeed public land when mortgaged to petitioner. Therefore petitioner could not have
acquired a valid title over the subject property by virtue of the foreclosure and
subsequent sale at public auction.
[7]

Resultantly, the trial court declared the following as null and void insofar as they
related to Lot No. 2029 (Pls-61) being a public land: the real estate mortgage dated 4
April 1978, the second mortgage dated 23 April 1979, the foreclosure sale on 14 April
1983, the certificate of sale registered with the Register of Deeds of Zamboanga del
Sur on 1 September 1983, and the affidavit of consolidation of ownership registered
with the Register of Deeds on 2 August 1985.
Petitioner then appealed to the Court of Appeals which likewise ruled in favor of
respondents, hence the instant petition.
[8]

Petitioner now seeks to overturn the decision of respondent Court of Appeals
holding that Lot No. 2029 (Pls-61) could not have been the subject of a valid
mortgage and foreclosure proceeding because it was public land at the time of the
mortgage, and that the act of Jesusa Christine S. Chupuico and Mylo 0. Quinto in
securing the patents was not tainted with fraud. The crux of this appeal thus lies in the
basic issue of whether the land in dispute could have been validly mortgaged while
still the subject of a Free Patent Application with the government.
[9]

We agree with the court a quo. We hold that petitioner bank did not acquire valid
title over the land in dispute because it was public land when mortgaged to the bank.
We cannot accept petitioners contention that the lot in dispute was no longer public
land when mortgaged to it since the Olidrana spouses had been in open, continuous,
33

adverse and public possession thereof for more than thirty (30) years.
[10]
In Visayan
Realty, Inc. v. Meer
[11]
we ruled that the approval of a sales application merely
authorized the applicant to take possession of the land so that he could comply with
the requirements prescribed by law before a final patent could be issued in his favor.
Meanwhile the government still remained the owner thereof, as in fact the application
could still be canceled and the land awarded to another applicant should it be shown
that the legal requirements had not been complied with. What divests the government
of title to the land is the issuance of the sales patent and its subsequent registration
with the Register of Deeds. It is the registration and issuance of the certificate of title
that segregate public lands from the mass of public domain and convert it into private
property.
[12]
Since the disputed lot in the case before us was still the subject of a Free
Patent Application when mortgaged to petitioner and no patent was granted to the
Olidiana spouses, Lot No. 2029 (Pis-61) remained part of the public domain.
With regard to the validity of the mortgage contracts entered into by the parties,
Art. 2085, par. 2, of the New Civil Code specifically requires that the pledgor or
mortgagor be the absolute owner of the thing pledged or mortgaged. Thus, since the
disputed property was not owned by the Olidiana spouses when they mortgaged it to
petitioner the contracts of mortgage and all their subsequent legal consequences as
regards Lot No. 2029 (Pls-61) are null and void. In a much earlier case
[13]
we held that
it was an essential requisite for the validity of a mortgage that the mortgagor be the
absolute owner of the property mortgaged, and it appearing that the mortgage was
constituted before the issuance of the patent to the mortgagor, the mortgage in
question must of necessity be void and ineffective. For, the law explicitly requires as
imperative for the validity of a mortgage that the mortgagor be the absolute owner of
what is mortgaged.
Finally, anent the contention of petitioner that respondents fraudulently obtained
the property in litigation, we also find for the latter. As correctly found by the lower
courts, no evidence existed to show that respondents had prior knowledge of the real
estate mortgages executed by the Olidiana spouses in favor of petitioner. The act of
respondents in securing the patents cannot therefore be categorized as having been
tainted with fraud.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the questioned decision of the Court
of Appeals is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

34

FIRST DIVISION
[G.R. No. 137887. February 28, 2000]
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. DAMIAN ERMITAO DE
GUZMAN, DEOGRACIAS ERMITAO DE GUZMAN, ZENAIDA ERMITAO DE
GUZMAN, ALICIA ERMITAO DE GUZMAN, SALVADOR ERMITAO DE
GUZMAN, DOMINGA ERMITAON, NATIVIDAD ENCARNACION, MELBA E.
TORRES, FLORA MANALO, SOCORRO DELA ROSA, JOSE ERMITAO,
ESMERANDO ERMITAO, TRICOM DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION and
FILOMENO ERMITAO, respondents. francis
D E C I S I O N
YNARES_SANTIAGO, J .:
Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari of a decision of the Court of
Appeals
[1]
affirming the judgment of the Regional Trial Court of Tagaytay, Branch 18,
in LRC Cases No. TG-362 and TG-396.
[2]

The facts are simple:
Conflicting applications for confirmation of imperfect title were filed by Norma
Almanzor and private respondent Salvador De Guzman over parcels of land located
in Silang, Cavite. After trial on the merits, the lower court rendered judgment in favor
of private respondent De Guzman, to wit -
"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered by this Court as
follows: nigel
(1) In LRC Case No. TG-362, this Court hereby denies the
application for registration of the parcels of land mentioned therein
by applicant Norma R. Almanzor for lack of factual and legal bases;
(2) In LRC Case No. 396, this Court hereby approves the
petition for registration and thus places under the operation of Act
141, Act 946 and/or P.D. 1529, otherwise known as the Property
Registration Law, the land described in Plan Psu-67537-Amd-2 and
containing an area of 308,638 square meters, as supported by its
technical descriptions now forming parts of the records of these
cases, in addition to other proofs adduced in the names of
petitioners Damian Ermitao De Guzman, Deogracias Ermitao De
Guzman, Zenaida Ermitao De Guzman, Alicia Ermitao De
Guzman and Salvador De Guzman, all married, of legal age and
with residence and postal addresses at Magallanes Street,
Carmona, Cavite, subject to the claims of oppositors Dominga
Ermitao, Natividad Encarnacion, Melba E. Torres, Flora Manalo,
Socorro de la Rosa, Jose Ermitao and Esmeranso Ermitao under
an instrument entitled 'Waiver of Rights with Conformity" the terms
and conditions of which are hereby ordered by this Court to be
annotated at the back of the certificates of title to be issued to the
petitioners pursuant to the judgment of this Court. brnado
SO ORDERED."
[3]

As earlier mentioned, on appeal to the Court of Appeals, said judgment was affirmed
and the petition for registration of private respondents over the subject parcels of land
was approved.
Hence, the instant Petition, anchored upon the following assignments of error
I
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE DE
GUZMANS HAVE NOT SUBMITTED PROOF OF THEIR FEE
SIMPLE TITLE OR POSSESSION IN THE MANNER AND FOR
THE LENGTH OF TIME REQUIRED BY LAW TO JUSTIFY
CONFIRMATION OF AN IMPERFECT TITLE. novero
II
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT DECLARING THAT THE DE
GUZMANS HAVE NOT OVERTHROWN THE PRESUMPTION
THAT THE LANDS ARE PORTIONS OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
BELONGING TO THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES.
[4]

We find merit in the instant Petition.
It is not disputed that the subject parcels of land were released as agricultural land
only in 1965
[5]
while the petition for confirmation of imperfect title was filed by private
respondents only in 1991.
[6]
Thus the period of occupancy of the subject parcels of
land from 1965 until the time the application was filed in 1991 was only twenty six (26)
years, four (4) years short of the required thirty (30) year period possession
requirement under Sec. 14, P.D. 29 and R.A. No. 6940.
In finding that private respondents' possession of the subject property complied with
law, the Court of Appeals reasoned out that - nigel
"(W)hile it is true that the land became alienable and disposable
only in December, 1965, however, records indicate that as early as
1928, Pedro Ermitao, appellees' predecessor-in-interest, was
already in possession of the property, cultivating it and planting
various crops thereon. It follows that appellees' possession as of
the time of the filing of the petition in 1991 when tacked to Pedro
Ermitao's possession is 63 years or more than the required 30
35

years period of possession. The land, which is agricultural, has
been converted to private property ."
[7]

We disagree.
The Court of Appeals' consideration of the period of possession prior to the time the
subject land was released as agricultural is in direct contravention of the
pronouncement in Almeda vs. Court of Appeals,
[8]
to wit -
"The Court of Appeals correctly ruled that the private respondents
had not qualified for a grant under Section 48(b) of the Public Land
Act because their possession of the land while it was still
inalienable forest land, or before it was declared alienable and
disposable land of the public domain on January 13, 1968,
could not ripen into private ownership, and should be
excluded from the computation of the 30-year open and
continuous possession in concept of owner required under
Section 48(b) of Com. Act 141. It accords with our ruling in Director
of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, Ibarra Bishar, et al., 178 SCRA 708,
that: marinella
'Unless and until the land classified as forest is released in an
official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the
disposable lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of
imperfect title do not apply (Amunategui vs. Director of Forestry,
126 SCRA 69; Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, 129 SCRA
689; Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, 133 SCRA 701;
Republic vs. Court of Appeals, 148 SCRA 480; Vallarta vs.
Intermediate Appellate Court, 151 SCRA 679).
'Thus possession of forest lands, however long, cannot ripen into
private ownership (Vamo vs. Government, 41 Phil. 161 [1920];
Adorable vs. Director of Forestry, 17 Phil. 410 [1960]). A parcel of
forest land is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Bureau of
Forestry and beyond the power and jurisdiction of the cadastral
court to register under the Torrens System (Republic vs. Court of
Appeals, 89 SCRA 648; Republic vs. Vera, 120 SCRA 210 [1983];
Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, 129 SCRA 689 [1984])."
(emphasis ours)
So, too, is the Court of Appeals' reliance on the case of Director of Land
Management vs. Court of Appeals
[9]
misplaced. There, while the period of
possession of the applicant's predecessor-in-interest was tacked to his own
possession to comply with the required thirty year period possession requirement, the
land involved therein was not forest land but alienable public land. On the other hand,
in the case before us, the property subject of private respondents' application was
only declared alienable in 1965. Prior to such date, the same was forest land
incapable of private appropriation. It was not registrable and possession thereof, no
matter how lengthy, could not convert it into private property, (unless) and until such
lands were reclassified and considered disposable and alienable.
[10]
alonzo
In summary, therefore, prior to its declaration as alienable land in 1965, any
occupation or possession thereon cannot be considered in the counting of the thirty
year possession requirement. This is in accord with the ruling in Almeda vs. Court of
Appeals, (supra), and because the rules on the confirmation of imperfect titles do not
apply unless and until the land classified as forest land is released in an official
proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands
of the public domain.
[11]

While we acknowledge the Court of Appeals' finding that private respondents and
their predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the subject land for sixty
three (63) years at the time of the application of their petition, our hands are tied by
the applicable laws and jurisprudence in giving practical relief to them. The fact
remains that from the time the subject land was declared alienable until the time of
their application, private respondents' occupation thereof was only twenty six (26)
years. We cannot consider their thirty seven (37) years of possession prior to the
release of the land as alienable because absent the fact of declassification prior to the
possession and cultivation in good faith by petitioner, the property occupied by him
remained classified as forest or timberland, which he could not have acquired by
prescription. Further, jurisprudence is replete with cases which reiterate that forest
lands or forest reserves are not capable of private appropriation and possession
thereof, however long, cannot convert them into private property. Possession of the
land by private respondents, whether spanning decades or centuries, could never
ripen into ownership. This Court is constrained to abide by the latin maxim "(d)ura lex,
sed lex".
[12]
iska
WHEREFORE, the instant Petition is GRANTED and the February 26, 1998 decision
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 48785 as well as that of the Regional Trial
Court of Cavite, Branch 38, in LRC Case No. TG-396 are both REVERSED.
Judgment is rendered dismissing LRC Case No. 396 for failure of the applicants
therein to comply with the thirty year occupancy and possessory requirements of law
for confirmation of imperfect title. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.